After tense negotiations with the school system, Howard County teachers are getting a raise next year. But the one-year salary contract isn’t the outcome they’d hoped for.

Teachers and educational support professionals will get a single-step salary increase and a 2.25% cost-of-living-adjustment, but they’ll have to go back to the negotiating table next year. The Howard County Education Association, the union that represents them, had pushed for a three-year contract that the Board of Education did not support.

“I think there is some clear disappointment of not having [a] three-year lock for finances,” said Ben Schmitt, the teacher’s union president.

Schmitt hopes they can negotiate a contract through fiscal year 2027 when they’re back at the table next year.

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The board did agree, however, to a three-year commitment on other aspects of the contract. There’s new language to protect breaks for support professionals, hourly pay for paraeducators who are substitute teaching, extra days for grading and a stipend for middle school theater directors.

The Howard County Education Association, also known as the teacher’s union, held a press conference and rally ahead of the afternoon school board meeting on May 9, 2024. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)

Starting annual salaries for Howard County educators will increase from $58,744 to $60,000 starting July 1, one year ahead of the legal mandate in the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, an education reform package approved by state lawmakers. It’ll be on par with neighboring Baltimore County and slightly ahead of Anne Arundel County and Baltimore City, which both have starting salaries hovering around $58,000.

The school system has to do better, Schmitt said, adding that when administrators come to the table, they need to bring “clear-cut salary offers that aren’t low balling and dragging the process on and on.”

The Howard County Education Association filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge earlier this year “against the school system for their failure to negotiate salaries in good faith,” Schmitt said at Thursday’s school board meeting.

The Public Employee Relations Board had scheduled a hearing between the teachers union and the school system. The hearing has been rescheduled a couple of times.

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The teachers union had pushed for a three-year contract that included salary raises. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)

During Teacher Appreciation Week in May, roughly 100 county educators rallied outside the central office to express frustration over salary negotiations. At the rally, teachers voiced their support for a multiyear contract and frustration at what they considered a lack of good-faith negotiations.

Acting Superintendent Bill Barnes, who becomes the permanent schools chief July 1, and school board Chair Jen Mallo thanked the teacher’s union for their collaborative efforts in the negotiating process during Thursday’s board meeting.

Schmitt said then that school system leaders, county officials and residents — especially parents — need to take the time to think about what students deserve, what is wanted from the school system and how it will be funded.

“The school system is the driver that brings people to live in Howard County,” Schmitt said in an interview. “We are also the largest employer in the county.”