By Victor Skinner
BEL AIR, Md. – Officials at Maryland’s Harford County Public Schools are cutting dozens of teaching positions across the district to finance a $10 million salary increase for older teachers.
“Of the 66 teaching and other in-school positions that were cut, 34 were at the secondary level, 28 at the elementary level and four in special education,” according to the Baltimore Sun.
Ironically the local teachers union, the Harford County Education Association, came out against the cuts earlier this month, just days after negotiating an agreement with the district that calls for a 1 percent cost-of-living raise.
In other words, school and union officials conspired to lay off younger teachers and enlarge class sizes to finance a raise for older employees. Then the same union officials who negotiated the deal are pretending to know nothing about it.
These people need to get real! Do they really believe taxpayers lack the intelligence to see through this nonsense?
While we’re sure some of the positions need to be eliminated – for instance, several of the proposed central office cuts seem logical – school and union officials very likely could have balanced the district’s budget without eliminating teachers.
All they have to do is start cutting expensive provisions from the teachers union collective bargaining agreement. After all, labor expenses tied to those contracts take up about 75 percent of a typical school district’s general fund budget.
Expensive perks common to most union contracts include automatic, annual raises for teachers, reimbursement for unused sick days, seniority bonuses, retirement bonuses, free or low-cost health insurance and pensions, a ridiculous number of paid sick and personal days, extra pay for occasionally teaching a few extra classes, extra pay for monitoring lunchrooms, and many other freebies that have no connection to student learning.
Dump the labor perks and the $10 million raise, and use the savings to eliminate the deficit and invest more money in classrooms. That would be a winning strategy for Harford schools.