[Baltimore Sun] Cecil County’s school board approves budget, asks county to make up $21 million shortfall

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Cecil County’s school board approved a $270 million budget proposal in a 4-1 vote Wednesday that hinges on the County Council making up for a $21 million shortfall.

Cecil County Public Schools received the legal minimum in school funding for the past three years. Superintendent Jeffrey Lawson warned this budget season that massive cuts to staff positions and programs like band and middle school sports would be eliminated if funding was limited to $93.5 million, the minimum level for county funding.

Depending on if the county fills the funding gap, the budget would retain those programs and positions while adding more than 60 staff. The proposal is a $12.5 million increase from the current budget.

It now heads to County Executive Danielle Hornberger, who can make changes before sending the county’s budget to the County Council for an April vote.

“There were challenges this budget cycle that we’re not used to,” Lawson said during Wednesday’s board meeting.

Maryland’s school districts are experiencing a tough fiscal year as federal funds offered during the coronavirus pandemic expire this summer. Districts must continue to implement programs required by the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, the state’s multi-billion-dollar education reform plan.

Nearly 15,000 students attend public school in Maryland’s northeast corner that borders Delaware. The potential for hundreds of staff to lose their jobs and popular activities to be cut drew thousands of people to a rally outside the county administrative building earlier this month. Several in attendance blamed Hornberger.

After the school board’s approval, Hornberger said she hopes the time for “rhetoric, fear and harassment is behind us.”

“It is now time to tackle the difficult work of seeking solutions that prioritize learning and student achievement,” Hornberger said in a statement. She said she would not answer questions about school funding until the county budget is submitted for consideration in April.

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