Harford school board approves ratification of teacher's contracts

The Harford County Board of Education voted Monday night to approve contracts that would give one percent raises and step increases to teachers, principals and administrators, provided the school system has the money to pay them.

The raises are far from guaranteed, not only because union members have to vote to approve them, something union leadership says they should do, but also because the school system has proposed spending about $30 million more than the revenue it is scheduled to get.

Jillian Lader, spokesperson for Harford County Public Schools, said she could not discuss the specifics of the contracts until the bargaining units representing HCPS employees agreed to the ratifications.

Ryan Burbey, president of the Harford County Education Association, had no qualms about releasing the details. According to the leader of the HCEA, which represents about 3,200 HCPS employees, including teachers, guidance counselors, media specialist and psychologist, the contract calls for teachers to receive a 1 percent cost of living adjustment and a step increase raise. The contracts up for ratification include agreements with the Harford County Education Association (HCEA), Association of Public School Administrators and Supervisors of Harford County and the Harford County Educational Services Council.

The Harford school system has about 5,300 employees, most of whom are represented by one of five recognized unions.

Burbey said before Monday night's school board meeting that he was hopeful the school board would pass the ratified contract.

"I don't see anything for us to gain by not ratifying," Burbey said. "It's not everything that we wanted, but we have to take an increase."

According to Burbey, each step increase is about a 3 percent raise, depending on salary. He said teachers have not received a step increase in four of the past five years.

Burbey said the contract is contingent upon additional funding for HCPS from Harford County government. HCEA plans to vote on the new contract Friday, Burbey said.

Harford Schools face a $30 million shortfall next school year based on the approved budget by Harford County Executive David Craig.

For the 2014-2015 school year, Superintendent Barbara Canavan proposed an operating budget of $484.7 million, which is funded primarily by the county, state and federal governments. The budget is $31.8 million more than the current fiscal school year budget. HCPS requested $243.3 million from the county, a $32 million increase.

Craig approved about $2.4 million more for next school year, $1.9 million he said was to make up for reduced state funding of teacher salaries and increased teacher pension obligations.

The agreement with HCEA is a one-year agreement which will be valid until June 30, 2015, according to HCPS documents.

The contract with the Association of Public School Administrators and Supervisors of Harford County is a three-year agreement valid through June 30, 2017.

The Harford County Educational Services Council agreement modifies a contract from 2012-2015 and is valid until June 30, 2015.

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