School raises earn praise

Key lawmakers back governor's proposal for teacher salaries

10% over two years

But some want plan limited to rewarding good instructors

February 09, 2000|By Thomas W. Waldron and Howard Libit | Thomas W. Waldron and Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

Gov. Parris N. Glendening's proposal to spend nearly $90 million over two years to increase teacher salaries won widespread support yesterday from key legislators and local school officials, signaling that the ambitious effort will likely be approved by the General Assembly.

Democratic legislative leaders, as well as several rank-and-file Republicans, gathered in the governor's office to support the spending plan, which is designed to give all public school teachers a 10 percent raise over two years.

"We need to keep attracting the very best teachers, and this will help," said Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, who chairs the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.

Officials said the governor's measure would mark the first time that state money has been used directly for teacher salary increases, matters now the subject of collective bargaining between local school boards and teacher unions.

"For the first time, we're challenging each of our jurisdictions to give our teachers a 10 percent pay raise, and we're going to help them do it," said Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

Townsend handled yesterday's announcement in place of Glendening, who was with his wife, Frances Hughes Glendening, who was being treated at a Baltimore hospital for a collapsed lung.

Amid the chorus of praise, some legislators said they did not approve of spending state funds on across-the-board raises, saying the money should instead be used to reward only good teachers.

"I believe teachers ought to be evaluated through student outcomes, and I would do my best to make that a requirement," said Del. Howard P. Rawlings, a Baltimore Democrat and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Under Glendening's plan, a county that raises teacher salaries by 4 percent next year would receive an additional 1 percent match from the state. The same matching funds would be available the following year, at a cost to the state of as much as $70 million over two years.

The 5 percent annual raises sought by the governor would be more than the increase negotiated in any school system in Maryland for the current school year, according to information provided yesterday by the Maryland State Teachers Association.

The largest percentage raise this year was in Washington County, where teachers secured a 4.5 percent increase, according to the union's figures. The raises in most school systems were between 2 percent and 3 percent.

But with tens of millions of dollars in extra state aid available, education officials predicted local governments would make every effort to budget for the required 4 percent raises.

Extra incentive

As an extra incentive, a second piece of the governor's package would send $19 million to 18 of the state's 24 local jurisdictions, excluding six of the wealthiest. Local school systems could use that money to help defray their share of the teacher salary increases or for other needs.

"It will be up to local boards to negotiate, but I think that the extra aid to the systems in need will let them reach the 4 percent," said Carl Smith, executive director of the Maryland Association of Boards of Education.

Baltimore City would receive the largest infusion of state aid -- $16 million over two years. Baltimore County would receive $9 million, while Anne Arundel County would receive almost $6 million.

The governor's proposal drew support yesterday from both local educators and most elected officials.

"This is the golden opportunity to try to do something about teacher salaries, which have been neglected for so long in the 1990s," said Howard County schools Superintendent Michael E. Hickey. "This is a chance not to be missed."

Howard would receive $4 million over two years.

While many school systems have been lobbying for more state aid that isn't restricted to a particular program, local superintendents weren't complaining.

"We wanted money that was not targeted to a specific program, so if I had my preference, it would not be targeted," said Baltimore County schools Superintendent Anthony G. Marchione. "But I'm not going to turn down the chance to help teacher salaries. This money fits one of our top priorities."

While county officials eagerly eyed their share of the state aid, the big winner appeared to be the state teachers union, a longtime backer of Glendening.

MSTA officials have been angry about Glendening's proposal to send $6 million in state textbook aid to nonpublic schools, even as he was doing relatively little to help most public school teachers.

"While I could make the case for a 15 or 25 percent raise, I think this is a terrific thing," said MSTA President Karl K. Pence.

Glendening's salary proposal was also seen by some observers as a major political gift to Townsend, his choice to be the next governor.

Townsend, who is seeking the MSTA endorsement, has publicly supported Glendening's private-school aid package, but has sent signals to union officials that she has reservations about the idea, sources said.

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