After a few years of making strides in improving their pay, members of area teacher unions may not get pay raises this year.
Even the rhetoric typically waged during spring negotiations has been somewhat muted. Baltimore's mayor and the suburban leaders have asked teachers and other employees to forgo raises, including some already negotiated, to forestall layoffs. In turn, the teacher union representatives have acknowledged a local government's plight -- in some, but not all, cases.
Teachers and other local government employees also were taken aback yesterday by news of a move in the state legislature to penalize any jurisdiction that increases its workers' pay, on the theory that state workers aren't getting pay raises next year.
"We see this, in conjunction with several other actions, as a major attempt for a state power grab," said Thomas J. Paolino, president of the Anne Arundel County Teachers Association.
"Last year, it was the MSPP [Maryland School Performance Program] they initiated, causing all school jurisdictions to revise their curriculum," he said. "Now, we're preparing students to pass a specific test on a specific date. When parents realize the amount of time we're spending to get ready for the test, I think they're going to be absolutely angry."
Irene B. Dandridge, president of the 6,000-member Baltimore Teachers Union, said that although she already was resigned to going without a pay increase this time around, her union was trying to extract a commitment from the mayor to bring city teachers into parity soon with other teachers in Maryland.
Her union, which received an 8 percent increase in each of the past two years, is negotiating wage rates for the final year of its three-year contract.
Last Friday, Mayor Kurt Schmoke announced a salary freeze for the city's 28,000-member work force for the fiscal year beginning in July.
Likewise, in Harford County, teachers were disappointed in a proposal that Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann announced Monday freeze salaries for all county employees, said Christine Haggett, teacher union president.
Haggett said Rehrmann's plan "didn't take us totally off guard." She said the union's executive board is to discuss the salary issue at a meeting tomorrow.
Rehrmann said Monday that she would not include salary increases for more than 1,000 county administrative and support staff in the fiscal 1992 budget. Saying she wants to cut operating expenses by about $8 million while avoiding layoffs and tax increases, Rehrmann also asked the school board and other departments that receive county money to consider freezing salaries.
"I realize that she has a difficult job," Haggett said of Rehrmann, ,, who has received political backing from the union. "But we still feel like we should get what we negotiated."
In July, the 1,800 teachers in Harford are to enter the last year of the three-year contract with the school board. The contract calls for 8 percent raises in fiscal 1992.
While pay for first-year teachers in Harford has risen considerably in recent years, Haggett said, pay for experienced teachers in the county does not compare well with other Maryland jurisdictions.
In the middle, not at the end, of a three-year contract are teachers in Howard County. They anticipated a 6 percent pay raise in July, but County Executive Charles I. Ecker wants teachers to forfeit that increase so the county can use the money to help bridge his budgetary gap.
A former deputy school superintendent, Ecker said teachers should share the burden of cost cuts and give up their raises because other government employees will not get increases -- and they face layoffs. He said teachers could save the county $18 million for the 1992 fiscal year that begins July 1 if they forfeit their increases.
"Obviously, we're disappointed that the county executive wants to be the first Howard County executive to bust an agreement that was negotiated in good faith," said James Swab, president of the Howard County Education Association.
The contract agreement was made last spring, when the county's revenues were growing. The three-year pact replaced the previous agreement, which provided teachers with a 24-percent wage increase over three years.
In Baltimore County, Edward Veit, president of the Teachers Association, said yesterday that he was not prepared to comment on how a proposed 25 percent cut in state aid would affect teachers, except to say that the association is "holding fast" at a 3 percent wage increase that Superintendent Robert Y. Dubel penciled in for teachers and other employees in his $515 million operating budget for next year.
While the Anne Arundel County Teachers Association has agreed to forgo a cost-of-living adjustment until next year, Paolino, the union president, said that agreement may be moot if the association's other, non-fiscal requests are not met. The union is coming off a three-year contract that raised wages 27 percent.