Teacher recruitment in budget

$549 million proposal includes higher entry-level salaries

Parham notes competition

Plan also addresses technology, security, additional positions

January 20, 2000|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

In an effort to address a critical teacher shortage, Anne Arundel County Superintendent Carol S. Parham proposed yesterday a $549 million operating budget that includes higher salaries for entry-level teachers and signing bonuses for teachers in hard-to-fill areas.

Parham's recommended budget for fiscal 2000-2001 also contains money for continued systemwide computer upgrades, higher pay for substitute teachers and 105 new teaching positions to keep pace with enrollment, reduce first-grade class sizes and place reading teachers in all middle schools.

The proposed spending plan, which Parham presented at a school board meeting last night, would be a 9.8 percent increase over last year's budget of $500 million. She is seeking an additional $49.2 million.

"I think this kind of budget is imperative if we're going to keep up in terms of recruiting the best teachers here," Parham said before the board meeting. She noted that a bidding war for teachers is under way among school systems in the Baltimore metropolitan area. A wave of teacher retirements in the baby boom generation and fewer college graduates pursuing education careers have contributed to a nationwide teacher shortage.

"The pool [of teachers] has become smaller. We're competing with other industries, and what we're offering isn't attractive," Parham said at the board meeting, referring to teacher salaries.

The school board has scheduled workshops and public hearings on the superintendent's recommended budget before its vote Feb. 16 on the spending plan. The board will send the approved budget to County Executive Janet S. Owens and the County Council, which will adopt a budget by the end of May.

Parham's focus on recruitment and retention of teachers is matched elsewhere. In Baltimore County, Superintendent Anthony G. Marchione's proposed spending plan includes $400,000 in signing bonuses for some specialist teachers -- a program similar to one adopted in Howard County in April.

Parham is proposing several budget initiatives to improve Anne Arundel's chances of attracting the best teachers. She wants $1.8 million to boost teachers' starting salaries by $1,700, to $29,000. That increase, plus her proposed 3 percent across-the-board, cost-of-living adjustment for all teachers would put the county over the $30,000 mark for entry-level teacher salaries.

School officials have said many quality teaching candidates overlook Anne Arundel because of its starting salary of $28,000. In Maryland, the county ranks 18th of 24 jurisdictions in pay for starting teachers.

On top of higher salaries, Parham wants $380,000 to offer up to 300 signing bonuses to special education, math, science and reading teachers who make a three-year commitment to the county. Teachers certified in their area would receive an extra $1,500 and a bonus of $750 without subject certification.

"If they leave in two or three years, we really have not helped ourselves," Parham said.

Her budget proposal contains $651,000 to pay for 21 veteran mentor/teachers who would help beginning teachers adjust to the school system.

Parham is also seeking $1.3 million to increase the pay for substitute teachers. Her spending plan would set the daily rate for a substitute with a bachelor's degree at $90, a $22.50 increase.

To continue the second year of a three-year "technology refreshment" program, Parham is requesting $5.2 million for equipment and software. The initiative will put 4,000 new computers in classrooms and offices.

Other instructional positions in Parham's budget proposal include 55 teachers to keep pace with enrollment growth. With nearly 600 new students expected next year, school officials are projecting the total student population at 75,608.

Parham wants 10 teachers to continue the reduction of first grade classes to 20 pupils, 20 permanent substitutes and 19 reading teachers -- one for each middle school. The superintendent has also budgeted staff positions for two new schools opening in August -- Piney Orchard Elementary and Brooklyn Park Middle -- and a schoolwide restructuring at Chesapeake Bay Middle School.

Because of the loss of a federal grant, the spending plan includes $310,000 in local money to keep 10 teachers who work one-on-one with struggling readers.

Among the 306 new positions in the budget proposal are 14 school secretaries, 20 custodians, 19 guidance counselors and psychologists, and 28 computer lab assistants, primarily for elementary schools.

Parham is asking for $300,000 to strengthen school security. The county Police Department is evaluating the safety of all schools, and the superintendent said she wanted to earmark some money to improve security based on evaluation results.

Two high-profile incidents this school year -- the rape of a high school student and the arrest of two middle school pupils in connection with a loaded handgun found at Meade Middle School -- called more attention to the issue of school safety.

Parham's revised $104 million capital budget includes $5.6 million for the renovation and expansion of Cape St. Claire Elementary School. The modified budget, which includes a five-year plan, delays some renovation work at North County High School and Southern Middle School until 2002.

The superintendent's proposed budgets are available at county libraries and on the county schools Web site: www.aacps.org.

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