Loss Of Raise Could Hurt Teachers In Coming Years

One Figures He'll Be Down $40,000 Over Decade

July 21, 1991|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff writer

The way Dean J. Sheridan figures it, the loss of a 6 percent raise forcounty teachers this year could cost him $40,000 over the next 10 years.

Sheridan, a Glenelg High School mathematics teacher, and a colleague started kicking around a simple arithmetic problem one day this spring after the County Council adopted a budget that excluded raises for teachers or other school and county government employees.

The arithmetic problem: If Sheridan and the other teacher could invest the $3,600 raises they weren't getting at 5 percent, how much would they have in 10 years?

FOR THE RECORD - On Page 2 of Sunday's edition, information was left out of the chart entitled "How pay freeze could affect teachers with master's degrees." The chart reflected pay levels for the 1995-1996 school year.

Intrigued, Sheridan turned on the computer in his Mount Airy home and wrote a program to calculate how the lack of a raise this year would diminish a teacher's earning power through the years. Two months later, he had a stack of printouts showing possible future teachers' salary schedules and income losses from the 1991-1992 salary freeze.

Many teachers in county schools are planning to protest the loss of their raises by not volunteering for late afternoon, evening or weekend activities in the next school year. That threat has produced some criticism from the public.

"People say, 'Look what you're doing to the kids.' But 10 years from now, my oldest daughter starts college. (My) $40,000 in lost income is her college education," Sheridan said.

The teacher said he made the calculations because he wanted the public to understand that the lack of a raise is not just a one-year income loss for teachers.

He said he's unsure what he'll do with his income loss projections. He is thinking of disseminating them at Glenelg High next fall. He suggested that they could be useful to the Howard County Education Association in contractnegotiations.

In simple terms, the income losses could occur because raises are granted as percentages of previous salaries. The average teacher salary in the county last year was $40,430. If a teacher earning that amount received a 6 percent raise, he would be paid $42,855 this year. The 6 percent raise in the teacher contract for 1992-1993 would then be calculated on a salary of $42,855. If the teacher gets 6 percent of $40,430 in 1992-1993 instead of 6 percent of $42,855,his lost income is $2,570.

The income lag would not be cumulativeif teachers are placed on the 1992-1993 salary schedule in the three-year contract they signed with the Board of Education in May 1990. If that happens, Sheridan said, teachers' income losses would be limited to the raises they did not receive in 1991-1992.

James R. Swab,president of the county teachers union, said earlier this summer that he would ask the union's executive board to drop the protest actionif County Executive Charles I. Ecker promised financing for the 1992-1993 teacher pay scale.

Ecker isn't making predictions about 1992-1993 raises for school or county government employees at this time. However, it seems unlikely that teachers will win the 16.4 percent increase needed to boost them from the 1990-1991 to the 1992-1993 pay scales.

The county executive said he didn't try to calculate long-term effects when he removed the allocation for teachers' salaries from the budget submitted by the school board.

"Nor did I (calculate it) for police or firemen or school secretaries or custodians," Eckersaid. No school or county government workers received salary increases for the fiscal year that began July 1. The other affected employees are on salary scales similar to the teacher pay scale.

Sheridan's computer printouts show what teachers' salaries would be in school years 1995-1996 or 2000-2001 if teachers had received the 6 percent increase this year and what they would be without the raise. He offered two future scenarios: annual increases of 4 or 6 percent.

A teacher with six years' experience and a master's degree, for example, was paid $32,950 last year. With the 6 percent raise and 6 percent annual increases, a teacher with similar qualifications would be paid $44,095 in 1995-1996. With a one-year pay freeze and 6 percent annual raises, the teacher would be paid $39,998.

If teachers had gotten their raise this year and then received 4 percent annual raises, a teacher with 10 years' experience and a master's degree would be paid $58,483 in 2000-2001. With the one-year freeze, a teacher with similar qualifications would be paid $53,329.

It is unclear whether the current teacher contract will have to be reopened for negotiations next year because of this year's freeze on raises.

"We have not been through this before, so I'm not sure what to tell you," said lawyer Judith S. Bresler, chief negotiator for the school board in teacher contract negotiations.

The contract was technically reopened this spring when the school board didn't receive money to cover the raises andimposed the current salary schedule for 1991-1992, Bresler noted. She said she isn't sure how the situation will be handled next year: "These are uncharted waters."

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