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It took a pandemic for parents to finally recognize underfunding of Harford schools [Letter]

In response to Mr. Charles Dierbach’s letter “Why couldn’t Harford schools find a way to provide online instruction earlier?” it is amazing to me how quickly people’s perspective and priorities can change. It has taken only four weeks for a large portion of parents of HCPS students to become concerned with the priorities and functions of HCPS.

Systemic underfunding of HCPS has led to where we are today. Harford County is 24th out of 24 counties in Maryland in per pupil spending. Our elected officials have not felt the public pressure to adequately fund HCPS because of a lack of public outcry. Parents, students and community members have not spoken up and demanded that the County Executive and the County Council fully fund HCPS. Now, given the current situation, Mr. Dierbach and others, suddenly find the lack of resources available for HCPS students a concern? Where have you been for the last eight years?

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The other counties Mr. Dierbach references spend from $200 to $3,100 more per pupil than Harford. Even the $200 more would account for an additional $8M to the HCPS budget. Certainly, that would provide funding to minimize the technology gap that exists in the county.

Mr. Dierbach’s suggestion that families be required to use their stimulus check to purchase technology is absurd. If a family does not have appropriate technology does it not follow that these families are probably ones that have lost their jobs and need their stimulus check to provide basic necessities for their family? Currently HCPS is providing over 1,000 meals a day, at 24 sites, to feed HCPS students, and you want these people to spend their stimulus check on technology? As far as Mr. Dierbach’s other suggestions, he is displaying his ignorance of what has occurred in the HCPS budget process for the last eight or more years, and in the budget process in general.

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The broadband issue in parts of the county is a direct result of actions by the County Council in the awarding of contracts to internet service providers. Citizens have lobbied the Council for years to require ISPs to provide the access that is missing. Why should HCPS be responsible for providing services that the County Council has not found it necessary to provide?

Finally, the choice by Dr. Bulson and the BOE to suspend graduation requirements was by no way an “out” for HCPS not to provide education to our students. It was a guarantee that the students of HCPS would not be penalized for the closure of schools. The State Board of Education, who’s graduation requirements are not as stringent as Harford County’s, also waived some graduation requirements.

As a regular attendee at BOE and County Council meetings, I do not recall ever seeing Mr. Dierbach speak regarding the HCPS budget or budget priorities. I would suggest that he start attending these meetings and advocating for those items that he believes that Harford County and HCPS should be providing for our students, rather than taking advantage of a worldwide crisis to criticize.

CYNTHIA F. POPER

Edgewood

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