Teachers riled over prospect of no pay raise
He didn't even ask, and that's what hurt the most, said many Baltimore County teachers who attended a public hearing last night in Towson to prevail upon the school board for a pay raise that they say their own boss --- Superintendent Joe A. Hairston --- should be seeking on their behalf, but apparently isn't. (See my story in today's paper.)
They say they are working harder in a system that is expecting more of them every year. What really had them worked up last night was that not only is a raise not in the offing, but many of them are facing a decrease in take-home pay because of increasing contributions to health care and pension costs. Without an across-the-board raise, union leaders say that 20 percent of their teachers --- the most senior --- will receive no raise at all. An additional 20 percent --- the newer teachers --- will see a pay cut because of higher pension and health care costs.
Starting salaries in the county ranges from $42,000 for 10-month positions to about $49,000 for 12-month teachers.
Talking with me last night just outside the gymnasium at Ridge Ruxton School, longtime teacher Ann Ritchey's feelings seemed representative of many of the educators who streamed into the building to appeal to school board members.
Ann was the first speaker of the evening. After giving her statement, Ann stopped to talk to me in the hallway. The 63-year-old fifth-grade math teacher and team leader from Bear Creek Elementary in Dundalk talked about why she felt compelled to show up last night.
"I'm insulted that a person with 42 years experience is being overlooked," Ann said as her eyes welled up with tears. "I arrive early. I stay late. The sad thing is my superintendent, the Board of Education, and the county in which I live, work and play, do not find me valuable enough to give me a raise. A piece of paper says I'm highly qualified. But I'm also highly offended."
Cheryl Bost, president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, also spoke during the public hearing. Among her comments, she rattled off some statistics that she said she hopes will help them decide to seek a raise on behalf of the county's teachers:
Baltimore County's "first step" of the bachelor's scale is ranked 7th in the state. Veteran teachers with the "greatest level of certification" are ranked as low as 15th in the state on the scale. Teachers in neighboring counties, including Howard and Arundel, are anticipating raises in the range of 4 percent to 6 percent. In 2002, education made up 48.1 percent of Baltimore County's overall budget, but by this year it made up only 37 percent.
"At Mars Estates in 1989, five new teachers were hired. I am the only one of those five who is still employed by this system. I love my profession, but as professionals we deserve a fair and competitive professional salary," said Bost, a former Teacher of the Year.
What do you say? Do the county's teachers deserve a raise?