After about a year of negotiations, Baltimore’s teachers will get significant pay increases — worth about $50 million — under a tentative contract approved by city schools and teachers union negotiators on Tuesday.
If ratified by a vote of the entire teachers union and approved by the city school board in February, the new three-year contract would give the greatest increases to both ends of the scale — veterans and the least-experienced teachers.
Those early-career teachers will get a 9% increase in pay, bringing the starting salary up to $58,895, one of the highest in the state for the current school year. However, the amount is still slightly below the $60,000 a year starting salary for teachers that the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, a plan to overhaul education in the state, will soon require.
Veteran teachers, some of whom had gotten stuck at the top of the pay scale with little chance to increase their pay, will get a significant boost. Union leaders said the city was losing 20-year veteran teachers to neighboring districts because they had reached a pay ceiling. The contract will create a new “advanced professional” pay scale that will allow teachers now earning $90,000 to earn as much as $114,000. That top pay is more than Anne Arundel County’s, but less than Montgomery and Prince George’s teachers can earn, and about the same as Baltimore County.
In addition, all the teachers, as well as other classifications like psychologists, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists and social workers will get a one-time $3,000 bonus. Elementary teachers will be guaranteed a series of five 45-minute planning periods a week, and teachers also have gained the right to be paid when they are chaperoning an overnight school trip.
“It is probably the highest raise we have been able to secure in our history from our school district,” said Diamonte Brown, the Baltimore Teachers Union president. She still believes teachers are generally underpaid, but “I think we are getting closer to what we deserve.”
The pay increases will be retroactive to July 1, 2023, because the contract was to cover this budget year. A provision in the contract says that the school system and the teachers must negotiate pay raises that would take effect in July 2024.
“We recognize that our educators are critical to our students’ academic achievement and emotional and social wellbeing,” said Sonja Santelises, the CEO of the city schools, in a statement. “We are excited to reach an agreement on this 3-year contract and compensation for this year that supports the elevation of the teaching profession and provides more competitive salaries to help retain and attract dedicated and skilled educators. The tentative agreement also allows us to begin negotiating future investments in our front-line educators. It’s a joint win as we prioritize our children’s needs.”
The new contract will help the city schools meet the requirements of the Blueprint which mandated an average 10% increase in pay for teachers compared to 2019. The new contract will mean a nearly 15% increase for teachers over that period, the statement said.
The $50 million will be required to come out of the current year’s budget, but city school officials said they will be able to “fulfill these commitments” and that the new contract has been factored into the budget for next year. The city schools are expected to receive a 2% to 3% increase in revenue for the 2024-2025 school year.
“City schools has applied all available dollars to make this generous contract possible for its teachers,” the school system said in a statement provided Thursday.
Zach Taylor, director of negotiations, said the union is continuing its negotiations over the next increases, as well as a restructuring of how teachers are paid to put more emphasis on merit and training as is required under the Blueprint.
The Baltimore Teachers Union contract has a vastly different pay structure than other teacher contracts in the state. In Baltimore, pay increases aren’t based on seniority or how long the teacher has been teaching, but rather on their job evaluations and the amount of additional training they receive or give to other teachers. In addition, teachers can take on additional duties to help them earn additional credits toward a higher salary.
The Blueprint requires a rethinking of the pay structure for teachers throughout the state that moves away from step increases for every year a teacher is in the school system, as is common in most Maryland counties. The city will need to update the contract in the next six months in order to adhere to new state requirements.