A Bel Air woman fed up with a pay freeze for Harford County teachers launched a petition to get officials to search line-by-line for waste in the county’s budget.
Harford County teachers have not received a raise for five out of the past six contracts .
Just last week----a proposal to increase the salaries for County Council members and the county executive drew criticism from educators and parents .
“Teachers are the heart and soul of our school system,” Julie Lepp wrote in her petition. “They have recently been put through a lay off of sorts and a pay raise that didn’t go through. The result was that HCPS hired 118 new teachers this year. These teachers were needed to replace teachers who left HCPS. I am sure that some teachers retired in that number.
“However, I know of many highly qualified teachers who are teaching elsewhere,” she continued. “Although I applaud the teacher’s promotions in other school districts, is this the way to lead our school system? Teachers will gain experience and knowledge in Harford County and then move on to other counties when they have had enough of the low pay. It will not take long to turn Harford County Public Schools into a second rate system in our area.”
The county, like other Maryland school systems, receives its funding primarily from state and local government with a small percentage of federal funding.
The funding of Harford County schools has remained flat for the past four years while state funding for the district has declined since 2012.
The county says it just isn't getting enough money from any of its revenue sources as year after year operating expenses go up.
The salary freezes have contributed to teachers leaving the district. About 300 teachers either retired or left this year and won't be there when students return next week.
Kathrina Black, a history teacher, said she could no longer afford to live in Harford County because of the salary freeze.
“We not only had a salary freeze, but we're being charged more for healthcare. Our salary is technically going down,” she said.
Ryan Burbey, president of the Harford County Education Association, added, “For me, it's about 10,000 dollars. So over the course of a six-year salary freeze, I've lost upwards of $30,000."
The online petition was signed by 1,542 supporters by Monday night. More than 900 signatures were still needed.