New teachers in Baltimore County Public Schools can expect to be some of the highest paid at their level compared to neighboring districts. The school system and teachers union reached a tentative contract agreement that boosts starting teacher salaries by over $5,500.

New teacher pay will go from $52,927 to $58,500 starting next school year after the contract is ratified in June, which Cindy Sexton, the union president, fully expects. Higher salaries were touted by the school system and county executive when county budgets were being approved, a measure they hope will attract and retain more educators amid a nationwide teacher shortage. The council approved the county’s $4.9 billion budget last week.

District leaders said they would fund a $59,000 starting salary ahead of the Maryland legislation that requires it to be $60,000 by July 2026. Sexton said the new starting salaries will be attractive to potential recruits.

The state reported in October that the average teacher salary was $79,420. Of the Central Maryland districts, Baltimore City had the highest average at $77,769. Harford County was at $76,277, and Baltimore County was at $75,841.

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When it comes to starting salaries, Baltimore County may stand ahead of the other central districts. According to teachers union websites, Carroll County’s starting salary stands at $50,061 for the 2022-2023 school year, Anne Arundel’s is $50,247, Baltimore City’s is $53,898, Harford’s is $54,195 and Howard’s is $56,804.

Better salaries are just one step in recruiting and retaining educators, but a step in the right direction for Baltimore County Public Schools, Sexton said. Although starting pay is high, it takes teachers years to climb the ladder. At the bargaining table, the union fought to compress the salary scale so teachers can make more money sooner.

“It currently takes 29 steps to get to the top of the scale,” Sexton said.

The teachers union negotiated a drop to 28 steps. The ultimate goal is to drop the maximum to at least 25 steps. Typically, steps equate to one year of teaching.

Kelly Olds, the union’s bargaining chairperson, said in a news release that it took four years to get the school system to consider compressing the salaries.

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“That is way too long, especially when you consider who is feeling the impact of the delay — students and educators,” she stated. “But I’m proud of where we’ve landed.”

Baltimore County Public Schools did not respond to a request for comment.