Teacher pay options offered

Cost could rise by $5.9 million next year

board to review study


Raising teacher salaries to be competitive with other Maryland school districts and restructuring the pay scale could cost Anne Arundel County between $2.1 million and $5.9 million next fiscal year, according to a study being presented tonight to the Board of Education.

Teachers' salaries in the county rank 16th out of 24 school districts in the state, said Gregory V. Nourse, associate superintendent for business and management services. The report also shows that since 1996, Anne Arundel County had the lowest salary growth rate of any Maryland school system.

"From a recruitment and retention standpoint, we need to do something to be competitive," Nourse said. "We're losing out on some teachers, and the board is concerned."

In July 2004, the school board said it would like to move teacher salary scales into the top five in the state. The committee that created the salary survey report to be presented tonight was charged with compiling options and costs for accomplishing that goal.

"We tried to look at what other school systems are doing ... to provide a basis for the board as they negotiate with the union, to give them some real data, salary information [and] give them some idea of the costs," Nourse said.

The school system and the teachers union began negotiations on a multiyear contract a few weeks ago.

The 22 members of the committee, assembled by Superintendent Eric J. Smith, include school system officials and representatives of parent groups, businesses, county government and members of the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County. The committee studied salary scales from eight surrounding school systems, and information about health benefits, among other data.

The report shows that, of the nine school systems, Anne Arundel County ranks eighth for starting salaries for teachers with bachelor's degrees, ninth for principal salaries and eighth for assistant principal salaries.

A teacher in Anne Arundel has a starting salary of $36,339, according to the study. The highest starting salary of the systems surveyed was Montgomery ($40,542), the lowest Harford ($36,334).

Sheila M. Finlayson, president of the teachers' union, served on the committee but said that she did not agree with all of the report.

"The report indicates we should beef up starting salaries," Finlayson said. "We have greater disparity much higher up on the salary scale."

She later added that she agrees with increasing starting salaries to help recruit teachers, but she also thinks more attention should be given to raising salaries for veteran teachers to help retention.

Under the options presented in the report, starting salaries for teachers would jump from $36,339 to $38,307 in the next fiscal year.

The report outlines three options for adjusting teacher pay. The first two options would eliminate the first three steps on the pay scale and would add steps on the other end of the pay scale. The first option would add those extra steps over three years and would cost $2.1 million the first year. Under this option, the teachers most likely to be affected are the newest teachers and those with the most experience, who would have the potential to make more. It would have little immediate effect on those in the middle of the scale.

The second option would cost $4.8 million the first year and would raise pay in every step of the scale.

The third option would cost $5.9 million in the fiscal year beginning July 1 and would also have a cost - which is not listed - in fiscal year 2008, according to the report. It would also eliminate the first three steps on the pay scale but would make teachers eligible for a pay increase every year until they reach the top of the pay scale.

The report also presents two other options without discussing them: using an existing salary scale from another school district and developing an entirely new salary scale.

The costs associated with the three options outlined in the report would be on top of the annual amount already budgeted for teacher raises. This year, that amount is $4.4 million.


Salary comparison

Anne Arundel County schools recently completed a survey of teacher salaries in nearby jurisdictions. Here are starting salaries for the current fiscal year:

1. Montgomery $40,542

2. Baltimore City $39,263

3. Calvert $38,500

4. Prince Geo. $38,307

5. Howard $37,653

6. Baltimore Co. $37,206

7. Queen Anne's $37,000

8. Anne Arundel $36,339

9. Harford $36,334

[Source: Anne Arundel County public schools]

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