In response to Bryna Zumer's Oct. 30 article in The Aegis regarding the second School Budget Input Session, I would like to provide the entire context of my comments.
As you can see from my comments, at no time did I ask for funding for the construction of YBES. During the past three years, our PTA has been actively involved in advocating for a new facility for YBES, but we have also continued to stay engaged in education issues, in general, including funding and budget issues. We are fully aware of the difference between the capital and operating budgets. As you can also see, that while I did note that we are no longer able to participate in certain music programs as a result of the funding cuts this year, the primary focus of my comments was on minimizing cuts that will impact classroom instruction.
The following budget statement was adopted by the PTA at its General Membership Meeting on Oct. 21 and presented at the Superintendent's Public Input Budget Session on Oct. 25:
Over the last two years, our PTA Board has actively participated in countywide operating and capital budget public hearings. In addition, our PTA Board has consistently attended Board of Education meetings, including both capital and operating budget meetings. In November 2012 and throughout 2013 the YBES PTA stated the following position regarding the Harford County Public Schools operating budget and outlined elements we support.
We believe the following points, if funded sufficiently, will encourage equity and parity in the school system.
• First, we support the reinstatement of wage increases and cost of living increases for teachers, administrators and staff. It is imperative that Harford County offer competitive salaries and benefits in order to retain highly trained and motivated teachers and administrators and to stay competitive with surrounding jurisdictions.
• Second, we ask that the budget provide sufficient funding for teacher and administrative salaries to maintain the current HCPS targets for classroom size. Ensuring that budget cuts have minimal impact on classroom instruction is essential.
• Third, we request that the budget include a sufficient level of funding for maintenance and repair of school facilities, particularly aging, multi-building school facilities. In facilities such as Youth's Benefit, William Paca or Homestead Wakefield, multiple buildings mean multiple costs, such as two to three different roofs, additional plumbing and multiple heating and cooling systems. The appropriate maintenance of these systems and facilities is essential to the security and safety of students.
• Fourth, we request that the budget provide for upgrading technology for those schools that do not reach the Maryland Targets for Technology, including the upgrading of infrastructure to support additional technology. This could mean creating adequate space for computer labs, white boards and Wi-Fi access. We were pleased to see that the Board has included a significant local request for Technology Funding on the 2015 Capital Project List to ensure that all schools have the technology support and infrastructure to meet the PARCC assessment requirements.
• Fifth, we ask that the budget include sufficient funding to provide continued training for teachers and administrators as the Maryland Common Core State Standards changes continue to be phased in. We are aware that the Common Core will require a new level of rigor from students and teachers must be given appropriate opportunities for training, planning and preparing.
• Sixth, we request that the budget provide sufficient funding for classroom textbooks and supporting material for new programs arising out of the changes to the Maryland Common Core State Standards and PAARC testing.
Our school of nearly 1,000 students lost a classroom teacher, a math specialist and a part-time music teacher as a result of the budget cuts this year. The effect of these losses have resulted in class sizes of 27-28 students in open classrooms for one grade level and an inability to continue certain music programs. As a school that has suffered the consequences of the budget shortfall, we strongly believe that the School System and the Board must continue to focus on cost savings that will have a minimal impact on the classroom.
While we understand that overtime expenses, rising operating costs and increasing state and federal mandates have contributed to the deficit, however, we believe every effort should be made to limit the negative effects in the classroom and on instruction.
We believe education funding must be a top priority in Harford County and would like to see the County Government, State Delegation and Board of Education work together to find solutions to the shortfall.
Our PTA remains committed to working with all parties, including the County Executive and the County Council to request that education funding be brought to a sufficient level in the County to meet these targets.
We also continue to be committed to our mission of advocating for safe and nurturing school environment for our children and supporting public education.