From Harford County Education Association (HCEA) President Ryan Burbey:
During County Executive Craig’s final State of the County Address, he extolled the accomplishments of his administration. Most notable among these were many construction projects, including a new sheriff’s office, emergency operations center, new schools, etc. Presumably, Mr. Craig believes that these edifices alone fulfill his commitment to public safety and education. While Mr. Craig’s commitment to development and construction cannot be questioned, his commitment to both public safety and education are highly circumspect.
County Executive Craig contends that public safety and education are two of the six “pillars” of his administration. He further states, “Education – Preparing now, Building for the future. This more than any of the other pillars of my administration holds a special place in my heart. I pledged that the county would make long-term investments in education by ensuring that children have a safe and stimulating environment in which to learn and to encourage and promote the availability of academic and technical programs that prepare all students to compete in the global marketplace.” Why then has he failed to provide the funding necessary for either the Harford County Sheriff’s Office or Harford County Public Schools to honor their contracts and commitments to their staff? If Mr. Craig is so committed to providing academic and technical programs, why has he persistently criticized the staffing levels, which HCPS requires to expand programing to meet the demands of a competitive 21st century education, which includes increased access to availability of academic and technical programs?
Mr. Craig frequently states how challenging the current economic environment is. However, during his administration general fund revenues have increased by over 30%. During his speech he noted a 35% increase in education funding. However, this is just not substantiated by the facts. In FY 2005-06, Mr. Craig allocated $175.4 million to public education. In FY 2014, Mr. Craig allocated $221.3 million to public education. That is an increase of $45.9 million or 26%. This increase is not even proportional to the overall increase in general fund revenues. As a result, public education has received a declining percentage of general fund revenues throughout the Craig Administration.
Prior to Mr. Craig taking office in 2005, HCPS received 48% of general fund revenues. Mr. Craig lists public education as receiving 45% of the general fund in his current budget. To further compound Mr. Craig’s declining support of public education, these budgetary percentages do not even include the numerous supplemental appropriations, which the Craig Administration routinely makes outside the budget to other county departments but denies HCPS.
In typical fashion, County Executive Craig blames the State of Maryland for all of his funding woes. However, in eight out of the past ten years, the State of Maryland provided more funding for Harford County Public Schools than Harford County Government. In fact, during Mr. Craig’s tenure as County Executive, Harford County has never even contributed half the cost of educating our children.
Mr. Craig’s failure to adequately fund our schools is further complicated by his extensive public development program. Not only do these projects bleed necessary funding from the operational budgets for both education and public safety; but his copious public improvement projects have caused a dramatic increase in Harford County’s wealth factor, which is used for calculating state aid to public education. No one in the Craig Administration seems to have paid any heed to the impact that his extravagant spending on development would have on the funding provided to Harford County Public Schools by the State of Maryland.
While Mr. Craig and I can agree that the state funding formula needs to be revisited, his failure to consult the current funding model as guidance to responsibly planning projects and development by accounting for potential reductions in state funding, has exacerbated his persistent underfunding of our schools. Perhaps, if Mr. Craig truly believes, “The state formulas which fund our schools are broken, misaligned, and disproportionate in nature. They unfairly and adversely impact the proper state funding our children have a right to and deserve.” He should have partnered with our state delegates and senators to pass legislation revising the funding formula, rather than just continuously criticizing them as he did publically in November of 2012.
Over the course of the last nine years, Mr. Craig has consistently underfunded both public safety and public education. Likewise, he has repeatedly blamed others for his shortcomings and failure to fulfill his promises. Whether he is blaming the State of Maryland or the Harford County Board of Education or the Harford County Council or the Governor or even the Harford County Delegation, it seems someone else is always to blame for Mr. Craig’s failures. I will not question Mr. Craig’s, “Love of this county.” However, his lack of accountability and inability to compromise, or collaborate with his fellow elected officials and stakeholders have not “positioned” our county for a better future. Tragically, by failing to adequately fund our schools, Mr. Craig has put the quality of our schools, the value of our properties and most importantly, our children’s futures at risk.