"[It is] just fundamentally flawed, the entire process of how we go about funding schools in Maryland, and Harford County in particular," Thornton continued.

Instructional facilitators remain

Board member Robert Frisch, who voted against the amended FY14 budget, as did board member Alysson Krchnavy and board President Francis "Rick" Grambo, recalled his own time as an educator and having to spend thousands of dollars of his own money to provide classroom resources.

"The most influential person in a student's life is the teacher that's standing in front of the classroom," he said.

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Frisch proposed two amendments cutting funding from the board of education's own budget. He made motions to cut $25,000 from the board's $55,000 line item for legal expenses, which the board voted against, 8-1.

The board voted 6-3 in favor of a second amendment to reduce the $25,000 line item for attending conferences and meetings by $10,000.

Frisch also proposed saving money for teaching positions by eliminating several instructional facilitators, who each make six-figure salaries, and funding six world language teaching positions at the middle school level.

The board voted against the amendment 8-1, however, with Frisch casting the only supporting vote.

He noted the recommendations to reduce school staff "all come from the bottom," which elicited applause from the teachers and school staffers in the audience.

Top school system administrators, including Superintendent Robert Tomback – who is leaving at the end of the month, said the facilitators have had a critical role in supporting teachers and improving classroom instruction, and their assistance is needed as Harford County Public Schools adopts Common Core Standards for its curriculum in the coming years.

'Unpalatable choices'

School transportation officials recommended during the budget presentation methods of consolidating school bus stops, such as creating a "depot stop," a gathering point students would walk to, rather than having the bus stop at each of their houses, to save on transportation costs.

Tuesday's school system news release explained that "consolidated bus stops" would be set up throughout the county for middle and high school students, consolidated and depot stops would be available for students in magnet school programs and four elementary schools would be added to the elementary schools that already have "fourth tier" bus service, meaning their school day runs from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

In addition to imposing the new fees to participate in athletics and extracurricular activities, the board also voted to increase the mileage reimbursement rate for field trips from $1.40 to $1.75 and the driver rate from $22 to $25.

The board members did, however, vote to exempt from the new fees children who are approved for free and reduced-price meals, those with parents who are teachers and those with parents in the active-duty military.

Kranefeld, the school system spokesperson, said Tuesday that families have not previously had to pay fees for students to participate in sports or activities, but would have paid for any specific needs not covered by funds raised by a school's booster club or another outside organization.

"Unfortunately, we're in a desperate time, and we're having to choose between some very unpalatable choices," board member Cassandra Beverly said.

Krchnavy opposed raising revenue from the activity and sports fees.

"I just don't think it's the right thing for kids at all, and I don't think it's the right thing for this community," she protested.

School officials provided a list of the sports and activities which the fees would apply to, including football, boys and girls basketball, lacrosse, track and field and cross country and more, as well as activities such as Envirothon, high school band and voice, yearbook, school newspapers, drama and more.