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Harford County Public Schools could receive $2.4 million in funding for one-time spending for its participation and success in a recently developed federal program.

Maryland is applying to participate in the Race to the Top program, the largest competitive education grant program in U.S. history, and could receive $150 million to $250 million for one-time spending.

Harford’s public schools could receive $2.4 million only if the state receives $250 million, Superintendent Robert Tomback said at a Harford Business Roundtable for Education breakfast on Wednesday at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Forest Hill.

While the school system is not going to turn down federal money, Tomback stressed that Race to the Top funding is not going to be the ultimate bailout for education some may think.

The Race to the Top program is a $4.35 billion fund created under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 designed to reward states for “implementing large-scale, system-changing reforms that result in improved student achievement, narrowed achievement gaps and increase graduation and college enrollment rates,” according to a Race to the Top fund informational document on the U.S. Department of Education’s Web site, www.ed.gov.

“Race to the Top is significant as a precursor to what federal education policy will look like,” Tomback said.

He said the program outlines certain conditions the states have to agree to, which includes extending the probationary period for teachers from two years to three, partaking in longitudinal data and following students from elementary school to the workplace and connecting teacher performance ratings and incentive pay significantly to student achievement, among others.

Tomback said the program’s ideas are great, but implementing the ideas will be tricky.

“The train has left the station in terms of educational reforms,” Tomback said.

Additional one-time funding for education will help Harford’s public schools, but it won’t help the county absorb teacher pensions if forced to by the state.

“The biggest issue will be teacher pensions next year,” Harford County Executive David Craig, who also spoke at Wednesday’s breakfast, said.

Craig said he thinks a portion of teacher pensions will be pushed onto the county next year and that some future county executive will pay 100 percent of the teacher pensions.

As the county faces absorbing part of teacher pensions in the future, Craig said he doesn’t see an increase of revenue.

“We don’t see any change in revenues issues with the county government,” he said.

Craig said state funding is also an issue, as it continues to get cut.

He said the county’s share of state highway user revenue was reduced 96 percent from $14 million to $500,000 in one year.

Craig said the amount of funding coming from the state to the county is equivalent to funding levels in 1983.


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