Teachers union head critical of Harford County executive's school funding levels [Letter]

May 01, 2014|Letter to The Aegis

After reviewing your budget in brief and associated comments, I find myself once again obliged to respond.

You cite several statistics to justify your lack of commitment to our public schools. You state that Harford County ranked 13th in local funding to public education. This is true but Harford County also ranked 12th in wealth per pupil.

Citing these rankings as justification for your administration's perpetual under funding of our schools highlights your fundamental disregard or misunderstanding of the state formula for school funding.

State funding for education is driven by an inverse wealth formula. The higher your county's wealth per pupil the lower the state funding. This formula is predicated by the idea that counties with more means must accept more responsibility for funding their own schools. The multitude of public and private construction projects which you have championed all count toward the per pupil wealth calculation.

Likewise, the tax increment financing projects, which you openly praise as smart policy, count towards our wealth per pupil calculation, despite netting zero additional general fund revenue to date. As our measured wealth has grown, Harford County has been expected to accept more responsibility for the cost of educating our children.

Really this is not about statistics. It is about children, teachers and our community. At a time when virtually every other county in the state is investing in their schools, Harford County, under your leadership, is not even keeping pace.

During your tenure as county executive, teachers' salaries have plummeted in comparison to their colleagues around the state. Likewise, materials of instruction, supplemental resources and professional development opportunities have become sparse. Over and over the Harford County Board of Education has submitted a budget, which you have refused to even come close to funding. Under the austerity brought on by your failure to meet the board of education's funding requests, our students lack the technology and 21st century opportunities, which other counties willingly provide.

You can tout the schools which have been built. You can blame the state. You can vilify me, our teachers and other voices of opposition. You can say that education is a priority for your administration. However, your words ring hollow. True leaders accept responsibility for the consequences of their decisions and actions. The truth is that year after year the funding provided by your administration lags woefully behind what is needed to provide a quality education for our students. Make no mistake; when the cuts come, when class sizes rise, when students, as well as parents wonder why their favorite teachers have left Harford County and when overall achievement falters, falling behind neighboring counties; the responsibility will lie squarely upon your shoulders.

Ryan Burbey, President

Harford County Education Association

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