House OKs bill for teacher raises

It also approves boosting scholarships for education students

March 26, 2000|By Thomas W. Waldron and Timothy B. Wheeler | Thomas W. Waldron and Timothy B. Wheeler,SUN STAFF

Maryland's public school teachers got a boost yesterday when legislation cleared the House of Delegates that would encourage local school systems to pay them 10 percent raises over the next two years.

Moving on two fronts to address the state's teacher shortage, the House also approved a measure that would increase state scholarships for students going into teaching from $3,000 to $5,000 a year.

The votes were expected victories for Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who had proposed both measures. The teacher pay bill requires approval by the Senate, which has approved an almost identical version of the scholarship proposal.

Glendening broke precedent this year by proposing that state money be used to increase teacher salaries, a matter usually left to local school systems.

"The governor is very pleased that the legislature has taken up the challenge to encourage attracting and retaining the best teachers possible," said Glendening spokesman Michael Morrill.

Under the bill, a county that increased teacher salaries by 4 percent would be eligible for a 1 percent state-funded match in each of the next two years. The 1 percent raise for the state's 55,000 teachers would cost the state about $80 million over two years.

The legislation also provides for the state to send $8 million to Baltimore and several of the state's poorer counties to help them pay for the 4 percent raises.

House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. said the pay raise legislation "recognizes that one of the fundamental ways to enhance primary and secondary education is to raise the prestige of the teaching community."

Senate OK likely

The measure is likely to win Senate approval, but with changes, said Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, chairwoman of the Senate committee considering the pay raise issue.

She said the governor's call for 5 percent raises for all teachers doesn't give counties flexibility to address teacher shortages.

"Some counties would like to be able to pay math and science teachers more," said Hoffman, a Baltimore Democrat.

On top of the money for pay raises, the House added a provision that would free $44 million in local education spending beyond the amount in the budget.

Half of that would be sent to the counties to use as they saw fit. The governor would allocate the other half for programs he favors, such as a program to prepare students for high school graduation tests.

"We tried to give the counties a source of income they can control," said Del. Sheila E. Hixson, a Montgomery County Democrat who is chairwoman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

The House proposal is not supported by Glendening, who wants to place strict limits on how additional education funding is spent.

Different approach

Hoffman said the Senate is also likely to take a different approach from the House to education spending increases.

The scholarship bill would increase annual state grants to students studying to go into teaching, at an estimated cost to the state of more than $28 million over five years. An existing program pays such students up to $3,000 a year.

To qualify for the scholarship, a student must maintain a B average at a Maryland college and agree to be a public school teacher in the state one year for each year he or she receives the scholarship.

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