Harford teachers plead with County Executive Barry Glassman for more schools funding

Harford County Executive Barry Glassman held a public hearing Thursday evening on the county’s fiscal 2021 budget, drawing a crowd of members from the sheriff’s and teacher’s unions who offered scattered kudos but, chiefly, requests for more funding.

Street clothes were almost in the minority as many of the attendees wore black and blue shirts in support of the county sheriff’s office or red to support the teacher’s union, the Harford County Education Association.


The primary issue of the public hearing was education and the adoption of the schools Superintendent Sean Bulson’s proposed budget, which calls for $24.9 million more in funding over the current fiscal year’s budget. Citing increasing enrollment and fewer educators, teacher’s union members blitzed the microphone to tell stories of overcrowded classrooms, students with special needs, empty faculty parking lots and insufficient funding.

HCEA President Chrystie Crawford-Smick said schools were funded last on a per-pupil basis among all Maryland counties, which was straining services to students. Union members also said they were not being funded proportionally to the county’s fiscal growth.


“We are not keeping pace with the increased needs of our students,” Crawford-Smick said. “This is not a spending problem; it is clearly a funding problem.”

According to statistics supplied by the county, the school system received more than its proportional share over the last 11 fiscal years, approximately $4.5 million more.

According to county data, Harford County Public Schools receive the least amount of per-student funding of any county in Maryland, though those students perform higher than the state average in fifth grade math and third grade reading. A fuller picture of student performance was not supplied.

Before the hearing opened, the union distributed pamphlets claiming that 166 educator positions were lost and 1,000 more students were added to the pool since fiscal 2017.

The county, in turn, issued its own pamphlet averring that half of the county’s general fund goes toward education. It also notes the county has a fund balance of $136 million, but only approximately $20 million of that is uncommitted to other projects like environmental and state mandates, Glassman said. Beyond that, the uncommitted money can only be used for one-time expenses.

The $116 million has been set aside for projects like federal stormwater management requirements, landfill closing costs and the anticipated expense from the Kirwan Commission education plan, which is set to be debated in the state legislature this year.

Some audience members advocated putting that $20 million into the school budget, but Glassman cautioned that would create a deficit for years to come. The county can not legally operate at a deficit.

Many impassioned pleas came for Glassman to increase school funding, but some had stronger words for the county executive, who sat with county officials on the dais of Harford Community College’s Chesapeake building theater.

One teacher called Glassman someone she “was not proud of.” Roye-Williams Elementary School Principal Rose Martino asked Glassman how he could feel comfortable “compensating [teachers] dead-last in the state of Maryland.”

Michael Montalvo Jr., president of the sheriff’s union, praised Glassman for increasing deputies’ pay and keeping the department competitive at the beginning of the hearing and exhorted him to keep their pay at levels where they can attract qualified applicants. He cited Tuesday’s standoff in Street as an example of the good work the office does.

“Our salaries must remain competitive … so we can attract candidates we would otherwise lose to surrounding jurisdictions,” Montalvo said. “We will never be one of the highest paid law enforcement agencies in the state, and we’re not asking to be.”

Residents of Edgewood also showed up to campaign for county intervention in the city. They said Edgewood gets a bad reputation and implored Glassman and the county to intercede and bring jobs and opportunity to the city.


Teachers outnumbered the other commenters almost four to one.

The teacher’s union represents all 2,800 Harford County Public Schools teachers and has around 60% membership, Crawford-Smick said.

“Our students cannot wait for us to continue to argue over numbers and statistics,” she said after the hearing.

The county executive will present the budget to the County Council in April.

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