More than 160 teaching positions, the district’s virtual learning program and educator salaries hang in the balance as the Baltimore County school board prepares to vote on the superintendent’s proposed budget Tuesday.
The Teachers Association of Baltimore County announced they, as well as the Education Support Professionals of Baltimore County, are rallying outside the Board of Education building in Towson at 5:45 p.m. before the 6:30 p.m. board meeting to demand more pay. No cost-of-living raises are included in the proposed budget.
“The County likes to say that they are focused on recruiting and retaining quality educators to provide the best learning experience for our students,” a news release from the teachers union states. “What they’ve proposed, however, will only drive existing teachers away to higher paying counties — and does nothing to make Baltimore County attractive to new teachers. We are all suffering because of their myopic view of compensation.”
School employees got a 3% cost-of-living raise for this school year, but next year’s proposed budget includes only an $18.9 million step increase divided among the 21,000 school employees. Teachers, who make up more than a third of all staff, say it does nothing for those at the top of the pay scale.
Superintendent Darryl Williams’ $2.6 billion proposed budget for the 2023-2024 school year has been lambasted from all sides, with the union and other stakeholders calling for more funds, and the county executive, Johnny Olszewski Jr., calling for less.
Olszewski was critical of Williams’ proposed budget, which initially asked for $36.4 million from the county. That request is down to $23 million, after the system found out it’s getting more state money than expected.
The budget also proposes to cut 162 vacant teaching positions to save the system $24.8 million, despite concerns that the reduction would stunt student academic achievement.
The Education Justice Table, which includes local community groups as well as the teachers union, sent a letter to the school board and superintendent suggesting that 150 more special education and English language learner staff should be added to the budget for $9 million more, and that the system should spend an additional $30 million to fund teacher and school-based staff salaries.
Also on tomorrow’s agenda is the unfinished business of the virtual learning program. At its Feb. 14 meeting, the board wrestled with accepting the system leaders’ idea to downsize the virtual learning program or find another way to fund it. Currently, pandemic relief funds are keeping the $16.5 million program afloat for the 1,630 students who take part.
If the board adopts the plan to downsize the program to 695 students, it would cost $6.7 million of relief funds. But if they want to keep it going as is, they’d have to find $10 million more in the operating budget or use the last of the relief money that is already designated to pay for staff, like safety assistants and IEP facilitators.