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Harford County school cuts are too steep

Harford County Public Schools Superintendent search finalist Dr. Sean Bulson spoke with a group of Harford County High school student representatives during a round of stakeholder interviews Thursday.

Sean Bulson, superintendent of Harford County Public Schools, presented his overview of school budget changes last week to the board of education (“Parents, teachers, students plead with Harford school board not to cut teachers, administrators,” Feb. 5).

Mr. Bulson said that he was told by Harford County government, presumably County Executive Barry Glassman, that past requests have been “excessive and unjustifiable.” It seemed that Mr. Bulson’s mission has been to propose a severely reduced budget that Mr. Glassman can approve.

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It is my opinion, and from the comments of those who spoke at the Board of Education meeting that of many fellow Harford County residents, that past proposals were neither excessive nor unjustifiable, and Mr. Bulson’s request is inadequate. Mr. Bulson emaciated his request to 1.3 percent more than last year’s budget. Apparently, no one has called the 6.1 percent funding increase in the sheriff’s office budget, or the 8.8 percent funding increase in the County Council’s budget, “excessive and unreasonable.”

Mr. Bulson’s proposal cuts 153 teaching positions and 26 administrative positions. Clearly, he was brought in to be a hatchet man. He had listening sessions around the county (I attended one) but ignored the brunt of what he heard. He chopped school expenditures despite the public’s support for strengthened public schools.

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Mr. Glassman might be happy with this budget, but few others will be. A student at Fallston eloquently stated that “fat from the school budget has been cut year after year, and this new budget proposes cutting off limbs.” On my way home from the meeting, a friend said, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”

No budget will be adequate until classroom sizes are reduced. No budget will be adequate until teacher pay meets, or better, exceeds that of surrounding counties. No budget will be adequate until salary promises, including cost-of-living adjustments, are always kept. No budget will be adequate until the arts are fully funded. No budget will be adequate until the Office of Equity and Cultural Proficiency is better equipped to prevent hate, bias and bullying.

Economic policies outside of the schools are what is squeezing our children’s futures. Harford County should fund its many other projects through temporary and targeted taxation rather than bonds, through which we all pay the costs of the project plus interest. Also, we need a national fix to rising health care costs so that increases don’t bankrupt our public schools. Mr. Bulson noted that school health insurance costs rose in the millions of dollars this year alone!.

Since Republicans hated the Affordable Care Act so much, maybe it’s time to try Medicare-for-All. Then our schools would not be burdened by paying for private insurance for employees. And is it not possible for our county executive to seek more cash from the state and federal governments?

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Tracey Waite, Bel Air

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