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Harford teachers urge county council to fully fund education

Harford County Public Schools teachers once again came to the county council meeting to urge council members to fully fund the Harford County Board of Education budget.

Roughly 20 teachers came to the meeting and a handful spoke out at the urging of Harford County Education Association leader Ryan Burbey.

Guthrie also got a round of applause for saying that "at some point, we've got to stop worrying about bricks and mortar and start thinking about people."

The councilman said maybe the board of education could have "stopped the craziness" of the pay-to-play system and altered bus routes that has required many students to take more circuitous routes or walk longer distances to get to school.

Nevertheless, Guthrie also said the council's hands are tied and he hopes help comes from Annapolis or the board itself.

He told the teachers he knows they are frustrated and that it seems like government officials can always "move the funds" when they want to do something.

Teachers urged the council members to increase funding, and HCEA President Burbey again warned of dire consequences if funding stays low.

Teacher Jennifer Sklar said the "public school side of our county is not thriving" and many students have severe problems getting resources.

Kathryn Morey, a speech pathologist at Hickory Elementary, gave a list of why people teach, despite a "thankless, neverending" string of tasks.

"Why teach? We do it because we care about the students," Morey said. "We are proud when they succeed and we fault ourselves when they do not."

She drew a round of applause for asking the council to fully fund the education budget.

"We feel we're unappreciated," Morey said. "Show us your respect. We deserve it."

Ben White said the rate of inflation in Harford County has increased but teacher salaries have not kept up.

He angrily piled a stack of notebooks on the podium where he was talking, explaining he created a project that requires the students to write in the notebooks and said he did not have to do the books.

"I care about these kids, I'm willing to do this," he said, adding that Fallston High is not offering microbiology for the first time in 35 years.

"You have to be the grown-ups in the room," he told the council. "Let's not have a race to the bottom here, folks. Lets not make Harford County mini-Texas."

"I simply will not be treated with less respect than the guy that mows your lawn," he said.

Burbey told the council that although the system recently cut 100 teachers, the cuts will get much worse.

"We're bleeding our talent," he said. "You hold the key to the pursestrings."

He said when he was in school, it was fine for many students to not graduate, but that is no longer the case.

Burbey told the council the county has a surplus every year and should send the funding toward education instead of toward Paygo projects.

"If a patient comes in to their doctor and they have a bullet wound, they don't give them a Tylenol for their headache," Burbey said.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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