Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Your Opinions

Thoughts On Issues Relating To Howard County

April 03, 2005

Howard's teachers deserve better

I read with great interest letters under the headline, "Top Educators Deserve Top Pay" (March 27). From the comments that I read, it seems that the general consensus is that teachers in Howard County deserve a pay raise. I agree, and not simply because I am a teacher in Howard County. However, I disagree that the 3 - 3.5 percent "raise" that is offered in the newly negotiated contract is truly a raise. Frankly, it is only slightly more than an adjustment.

The most recent government cost of living adjustment (COLA) from October 2004 is 2.7%. The Social Security Administration's Web site defines the COLA as, "the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers from the third quarter of one year to the third quarter of the next."

So, let's stop kidding ourselves. I have been a teacher in Howard County for eight years, and for me, the 0.3 - 0.8 percent "raise" that does not include the COLA, comes to approximately $375 for the next pay year. That's about $14 a paycheck. Before taxes, of course.

Wow. Thanks. Now I can quit my two part-time jobs. And maybe I can even afford to live in Howard County and one day give my own children the "best education in the state."

Further, [Superintendent of Schools] Sydney Cousin quotes the COLA in the Baltimore-Washington region to be 3.6% for the last year. So, one could legitimately argue that even with the 3.5% increase in salary, a teacher's standards of living will not only not improve, but will actually decline.

Of course, there is not a teacher out there that went into this profession blindly. So please no comments of, "If you don't like it, then do something else." That's already happening. Many teachers are leaving the profession, and some of those that are staying are leaving Howard County.

In neighboring Montgomery County, for example, a teacher with my experience makes $3,606 more annually. That is a substantial difference. But do not misunderstand my point. I am not making threats. I like the school where I teach, I like the students, the community, and the other teachers that I collaborate with. Instead, my suggestion is simple. Fix the problem.

I want to work in Howard County, and if Howard County is indeed one of the top school districts in Maryland, and there is substantial data to support that, then compensate the teachers with a true raise. I would like to think that Howard County feels that what teachers do is meaningful and important.

Robert Yore

The writer is a math teacher at Oakland Mills High School

Teacher salaries key to top school system

It is absolutely essential that teacher salaries in Howard County not only remain competitive but improve dramatically in order to maintain the school system's rank as the state's top-performing district.

I am a Mathematics Instructional Specialist in the Howard County Public School System. I visit and talk with mathematics teachers in Howard County on a daily basis. Based on informal data I have collected, approximately 40 percent of Howard County's middle and high school mathematics teachers are currently eligible or will be eligible to retire within the next four years. These are our most experienced teachers, whose expertise in and out of the classroom is largely responsible for "the school system's rank as the state's top-performing district."

Ask just about any of these teachers and they will tell you that as soon as they can retire, they will. As reasons, they cite the increased pressure and paperwork resulting form state tests imposed because of the "No Child Left Behind" mandate, the decrease in respect they are shown by parents, students, and school system administrators, the increased accountability that makes them feel that "nothing I do is good enough," and the constant battle they must fight to justify being treated and paid as professionals. These same reasons cause many beginning teachers to leave the profession within the first five years of their career.

One of the responsibilities of my job is to interview prospective mathematics teachers applying for teaching positions in Howard County's middle schools and high schools. I have interviewed several promising candidates in the last few months.

I have also interviewed many more who I did not recommend hiring. One thing is for certain: I have not interviewed nearly enough prospective math teachers, qualified or unqualified, to fill the vacancies that will be left when those eligible to retire in the next few years leave!

We are facing a crisis. We must be proactive in making the teaching profession attractive so that the best and brightest in all subject areas will consider making teaching a long-term profession.

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