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Letter: Let Harford executive Barry Glassman know education matters at public input session Thursday

On Thursday, Jan. 23, the County Executive will hold his only public input session to allow Harford County citizens to identify their budget and funding priorities for the FY21 County Budget. While Save Harford Schools recognizes that Harford County has many needs, including infrastructure, libraries, mental health and addiction supports to name a few, the needs of our public school system continue to mount, suffering severe cuts in staffing since 2011.

We recognize the amount of funding provided by the current administration has increased above maintenance of effort every year in terms of dollars. However, funding has failed to keep pace with the increases in county revenue and with the percentage of funding that the school system represents in the overall county budget, falling from 46% in FY14 to 43% in FY18. According to the County’s Comprehensive Financial Report, the county fund balance has increased from more than $72.1 million in FY14 to over $135.7 million in FY19.

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The school system has cut approximately 480 positions since 2011, 67 net position cuts were made in FY20. The FY20 cuts came from all areas of the system; however, the school-based instructional cuts resulted in increased class sizes. Another contributing factor to class size has been an increase in enrollment, up from 37,780 students in FY18 to 38,429 students today. In addition, the system has seen an increase in special education students and the number of English language learners has nearly doubled since 2011. Simply put, Harford County cannot continue to meet the needs of our students without increased funding for education.

According to the State Department of Legislative Services, Harford County ranks 24th out of 24 counties in per pupil funding in the State of Maryland, 13th in local funding and 16th in state funding. The school system is the eighth-largest system in the State of Maryland. Although our wealth ranking in Maryland (11th) adversely affects our state funding calculation; we cannot remain 24 out of 24. Our children deserve better opportunities than we are giving them.

The Superintendent’s FY21 proposed budget requests an additional $22.4 million in funding from the local government, more than $5.25 million from the state and proposes to use $2 million of the available $4 million of the system’s fund balance. This request will allow the system to add back enough positions to hold class sizes at the current level. It does not allow for reductions in class sizes, but will address increased enrollment.

We urge the citizens of Harford County to attend the only county budget input session on Jan. 23 at 6 p.m. in the Chesapeake Theater at Harford Community College to advocate for support for the school system’s budget request.

While you can participate virtually, we believe the need to show support in person is paramount.

Sending your comments electronically does not guarantee that they will be read or recognized.

Save Harford Schools is a community-based organization made up of private citizens and organizations who support education in our county.

LAURA RUNYEON

BETH POGGIOLI

CHRYSTIE CRAWFORD-SMICK

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