In a last ditch attempt to get salary step increases for Harford County teachers, teachers’ union president Ryan Burbey is asking parents to advocate for the raises despite the staffing cuts and higher class sizes needed to pay for them.
Burbey posted a message Saturday on the union’s Facebook page “Harford Students Count on Us!”, urging parents to contact school board members who are set to pass a budget for the new fiscal year beginning July 1, 2014. In his message, Burbey calls the higher class sizes “a difficult pill to swallow for the community,” but necessary for teachers made “desperate” by a lack of salary step increases in recent years. Salary step increases scheduled in the Harford County teachers’ contract are based on years of service and education levels attained, and subject to decisions by funding authorities and the school board.
The Harford County Board of Education requested funding next year for a cost of living increase for all employees, plus salary steps and longevity increases for those who are eligible. But county funding fell $29.6 million short of the school board’s overall operating request for fiscal 2015, requiring the Board to scale back its spending plans.
The Board took a stab at balancing its budget last week, narrowly defeating a move by Board Member Jim Thornton to provide $2.8 million for a salary increase – roughly equivalent to a 1% cost of living increase for all employees – that potentially required layoffs of 46 non-instructional staff. Superintendent Barbara Canavan said she would explore other options to pay for the raises, but she told Board members that the layoffs, coming on top of 240 position cuts since 2010 would “decimate” the system. The Board delayed until Monday its vote on the amended budget recommended by Canavan, which prevents layoffs and holds the line on class sizes, but does not provide salary increases for any employees.
Burbey said today that he was urging teachers to attend the Monday meeting, and he was also seeking support from the broader community.
Below is the Facebook message from Burbey, president of the Harford County Education Association (HCEA), which is the bargaining union representing the approximately 3,200 teachers in HCPS:
I need to ask you and your members to please advocate not for a 1% for staff, or for the no-layoffs strategy but for a practice and philosophy of honoring teacher and employee salary steps regardless of funding. I know that means cuts which will increase class sizes. I know that this will be a difficult pill to swallow for the community. Unfortunately, teachers have reached a point of desperation. We cannot go on without our steps. Likewise, the lack of steps and failure to honor our salary scale has reduced our teachers to beggars, who must not only make daily sacrifices for their students but also beg for the money they were promised when they were hired which they desperately need to sustain their families.
Please help us. We will never change the priorities of this county and get county government to properly fund our schools if our teachers continue to be sacrificial lambs.
This is the link to our Facebook page where you can also find the link to submit a comment on the budget recommendation there.
Please contact me if you have any questions. Please also feel free to share this with anyone.