25 February 2019
The HCPSS budgeting process, even though it moves at a glacial pace and uses heavy jargon, is vital to what we as a student body and community witness and learn when we enter the school building. But how does the budgeting process work?
First proposed in early February 2019, the 2019-20 budget expands teacher healthcare provisions, mental health aids, and provides room for future expansion of the school system as the county population grows.
Teachers’ union leader and AHS world history teacher Mabrooka Chaudhry said that negotiating staff’s interests with the superintendent is “different every year.” The negotiations are on a strict timeline. “If we’re not able to negotiate anything early, by before winter break, […] they present it to the Board of Education. The Board of Education says yes, and then it goes to the county council.” If the HCEA does not have the budget fully negotiated before winter break, then the Board goes ahead with the budget, making it, “a little bit more tricky,” according to Chaudhry, to ask for more staff money and mediate afterwards.
There were additional issues regarding the health benefits that staff members used. The school system under past superintendents accumulated a deficit in the staff healthcare system, which Martirano, HCPSS’ newest superintendent, vowed to fix this year. Chaudhry suggested that one of the ways to address the deficit was to decrease staff healthcare benefits. The teachers’ union recently agreed to have less health benefit increases in order to fix the deficit.
According to HCEA President, Colleen Morris, the Howard County Public School System is the fastest-growing school system in the state relating to staff and resources. As a consequence of this rapid growth, according to Morris, there needs to be more accountability in the system; and the, “hole of $19 million,” in terms of healthcare needed to be closed.
The HCEA President also spoke about the dedication of teachers to their students. “Educators dedicate their lives to their profession and our students. Even if people don’t say it all of the time, the fact that HCPSS is one of the most desirable places to work stems from the benefits negotiated by HCEA,” Morris said.
Superintendent Martirano’s goals for the school system, accountability, alignment and action, shine through in the new budget, even through turbulent fiscal times. According to the budget summary on the HCPSS website, the budget reforms are leading “the system out of chaos, through a process of re-stabilization, and to the point where [the Board] can articulate the system’s true needs.”