Teachers Reserve Action On Fate Of Salaries

Executive's Call For Wage Freezes Viewed Cautiously

March 24, 1991|By Angela Gambill | Angela Gambill,Staff writer

County teachers and other school employees are staying calm about the fate of their salary increases -- for now.

Christine Haggett, president of the Harford County Education Association, said the 1,500 union members are taking a "wait and see" attitude about county executive Eileen M. Rehrmann's call for a universal freeze on county employees' salaries.

The Board of Education is following suit.

They say they'll hold off on commenting about whether they support freezing 1991 school employee salaries until April 1.

That's when the county executive is expected to release fiscal year 1991-1992 budget figures.

"Basically, we're sitting tight," Haggett said after she met with members of the 1,500-member union Thursday.

"We're waiting to see what's done on the state level -- if the state passes legislation that would penalize counties for raising salaries -- and also to see what the county executive sends over to the County Council April 1."

Rehrmann froze county government employee salaries for one year. She has askedthe Board of Education, the Harford County Public Library and Harford Community College to do the same for their employees.

Board of Education president Richard Molinaro, said, "We've decided nothing definitive.

"We're waiting to see the final numbers from the county executive; what budget cuts they'll make. From there we'll decide."

Harford teachers are entering the last year of a three-year contractthat guaranteed an 8 percent pay raise this year.

The contract expires June 30, 1992.

School administrators have said the 8 percentraise promised to school employees and teachers raised the Board of Education's budget request by $7.3 million. Under the contract, an average teacher, earning a salary of $36,072, would receive a $2,885.76raise when the new fiscal year kicks in July 1.

Said Haggett, "Wehad hoped to get the third year of our contract and have it funded, but economic conditions are not something within our control or anyone else's control. We are not trying to be unreasonable."

The unionpresident said it's too soon to predict whether the union will fightto protect their 8 percent raises.

"They're distressed; they're upset, no question about that," she said. "They're being asked to do more and more for less and less, basically.

"It's not just their salaries, but what's good for the students and what's needed for the students," she said.

The union president said that state programs that concentrate money on programs such as data collection increase thefrustration of teachers, who believe the money could be better spent"closer to the children."

Also discouraging to teachers is the state department's decision to certify alternate teachers who have little formal preparation in teaching courses. "With 90 hours of trainingthey can turn anyone into a teacher," she said. "That can't do a whole lot for our teachers."

The union meets again April 18, unless an emergency prompts them to call a special meeting, Haggett said.

"The needs are very real to (the teachers)," she added.

"They justwant enough educational tools, class sizes and support to better enable them to do their jobs."

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