Harford teachers union opposes job cuts

The Harford County Education Association, the union representing the county's 3,200 public school teachers, says it is opposed to the school system's plan to cut 66 positions, even though the cuts are tied to the first raises approved for teachers and other school employees in four years.

The union took the position against the job cuts in a news release issued Wednesday afternoon, two days after it agreed to a tentative contract settlement calling for a 1 percent cost of living increase and other incremental raises for the 2012-13 school year.

Just hours after the contract settlement was announced Monday afternoon, a motion was approved by the board of education during its Monday night meeting in an attempt to balance the budget and also fund the $10 million that will go toward the raises for teachers and similar increases for the school system's other 1,800-plus employees.

The budget balancing had the net effect of forcing the job cuts, school officials said.

In addition to the 66 in-school jobs that will be eliminated in the upcoming school year, six positions will also be cut from the school system's central office staff. What departments the positions will be taken from is yet to be determined.

"The Harford County Council put the Harford Board of Education in a difficult position when it shrugged off its responsibility to adequately fund county schools," HCEA President Randy Cerveny said in Wednesday's news release. "We believe that classrooms should be the last place any cuts should be made."

"We hope that everyone in the county will join with us when we return to school in August to take up the funding fight we've begun," Cerveny continued. "If we don't stand together to support our schools, there will be more of these difficult decisions in the future, many of which will be disastrous to quality education in the county."

While HCEA has no authority to make budget decisions, the union believes the board of education "had other options in terms of cuts" and the board "chose to take so much out of school level staffing," according to Cerveny. "Our preference would have been to make cuts that didn't directly affect the students."

It was not specified in the press release what those "other options" were; "HCEA made the offer to sit down with representatives of the Board of Education to look for possible cuts that would be least detrimental to classroom instruction," the news release states.

"In light of the fact that the Harford County school population has decreased by 2,000 students over the last five years, we expect the board to implement any necessary staff reductions in a way that will not affect class size or decrease curriculum offerings to students," HCEA negotiator Seleste Harris said in the news release.

Prior to Monday, teachers had spent about six school days picketing outside selected schools at the end of the day to show their displeasure with a lack of progress in contract negotiations for next school year, as well as with the stalemate that continued over their 2011-12 contract. Issues with both contracts were supposedly resolved with the settlements announced Monday afternoons.

Check back with http://www.exploreharford.com for updates.

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