Majority of residents give schools 'C' or worse

March 17, 1994|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Sun Staff Writer

More than half of Baltimore County residents questioned recently in a teachers union survey gave the schools countywide a grade of "C" or below.

However, they graded their neighborhood schools slightly better, with about 45 percent giving them a "C" or below and 42 percent giving "A" and "B."

The survey was commissioned by the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, with respondents chosen at random from the county voter registration lists.

The telephone survey of 632 county residents by Mason-Dixon Political/Media Research of Columbia also showed that 54 percent believe teachers are underpaid, according to the group's results. One percent said teachers are overpaid.

"The county executive is now considering the budget," said TABCO president Ray Suarez. "The school board has said its No. 1 priority is salaries. This data, we hope, will help reinforce that."

Mr. Suarez also pointed to survey results showing that 43 percent of the respondents preferred that any additional tax revenue go first to schools, as compared with 27 percent who wanted the criminal justice system to be the first recipient.

The survey did not ask voters if they would support a tax increase for education.

County teachers and other school system employees have not had pay raises in more than three years, though County Executive Roger B. Hayden has indicated that he would approve raises this year for all county workers. The school board has negotiated raises, totaling about 6 percent, for all of its employees, subject to Mr. Hayden's approval.

When voters were asked how large a raise teachers should receive, 30 percent said 1 percent to 3 percent, 31 percent said 4 percent to 6 percent and 16 percent said 7 percent to 9 percent.

More than 50 percent of those surveyed said the schools do not provide adequate incentives to keep teachers from taking jobs outside the classroom.

Mr. Suarez said the schools cannot afford to lose their best teachers, particularly as the system gets in shape for the 21st century.

"We'll need the best and the brightest teachers to achieve these goals," he said.

The survey did not indicate a large difference of opinion between voters who have children in school and those who do not. For instance, 43.4 percent of respondents with children in school said education should be first in line for additional money, and 42.9 percent of those with no children in school agreed.

This finding is in contrast to the opinions of Mr. Hayden and some school officials, who have said repeatedly that as the county's population ages, its residents are less willing to spend money on schools.

In a recent meeting with the school board, Mr. Hayden said that raising taxes was "not an option" and that in the long run it would hurt the county as people would move to counties with lower tax rates.

The TABCO survey also showed:

* 48 percent opposed year-round school, 37 percent favored it; 15 percent were undecided.

* 62 percent said the County Council should be able to restore funds cut from the budget by the county executive; 27 percent said it shouldn't; 11 percent were undecided.

The poll was conducted the week of Feb. 21. Its margin of error is no more than plus or minus 4 percentage points for the entire group.

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