Carrying several thousand copies of the state's school system reportcard, teachers marched into the Board of Education meeting Monday toprotest spending $39,000 in county money to print the booklets.
But that seemed like chump change the next day, when County Executive Eileen Rehrmann ordered a $1.47 million reduction in school spending to help comply with the latest round of state budget cuts.
Every county agency must cut its budget to make up the loss of $5.4 million in state aid.
The Harford County Education Association,which represents school employees in bargaining, staged the report card procession a day after the union and the school board concluded negotiating a new contract for the county's more than 2,000 teachers.
Through a series of miscommunications with the state Department ofEducation, the county school board mistakenly sent more than 33,000 students home with copies of the Maryland School Performance Program's second annual report card.
The material included a 122-page report on county schools and a 62-page report on schools statewide. But the county was required to distribute only individual school reports measuring student achievement against 13 state academic and attendancestandards.
"I wish that $39,000 could have been part of the $1.5 million (in state cuts) instead of wasted," said Christine Haggett, president of the Harford County Education Association.
Teachers piled the reports in foot-high stacks before school board members seatedin the Southhampton Middle School auditorium. Several stacks included notes on how the money could have been used, such as library books and field trips for William Paca-Old Post Road Elementary School or fax machines for Aberdeen High School.
But the school board must decide how to trim 2 percent from the $73 million the county contributes to its budget, after Rehrmann said there are "no sacred cows" during this sixth round of the state cuts.
"It would be my hope that wecould make reductions that do not affect personnel or instruction," school board finance director Bill Rufenacht said Thursday.
Like other county personnel, school system employees received no seniority step raises this year or cost-of-living adjustments provided under the last year of their contract.
Restoring step raises next year would add $1.1 million to the school system's budget, and it would cost $950,000 for every 1 percent COLA increase.
When the General Assembly last slashed the state budget in October, the school board absorbed more than $700,000 in cuts.
An unanticipated $300,000 surplus in federal aid helped the school board limit cuts to maintenance, equipment and instructional materials.
Rufenacht said the new spendingcuts will be targeted to the same areas. But he would not rule out furloughs or salary give-backs, which have been imposed in Baltimore City and in other counties.
"The legislature still has an opportunity to change the (governor's) proposal," Haggett said. "Basically, you get what you pay for.
"Are the citizens of Maryland and the citizens of Harford County willing to pay for the level of services they expect? Or are they willing to do without those services? Or the third option -- are they willing to raise revenues to support those services?"
School board member Percy Williams urged teachers, parents and students to take their concerns to legislators when the General Assembly convenes next month.
"Greet them as they enter the halls inAnnapolis January 8, confronting -- if that's a good word -- encouraging, pleading, begging, doing whatever is necessary to get adequate funding for Harford County students," he said.