School Pact Has No Raises

Teachers May Vote In Fall On Contract That Sets Furloughs

July 12, 2009|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

Anne Arundel County teachers will likely be presented with a contract to vote on in the fall that provides no raises or signing bonuses and between one and three furlough days, conditions already laid out in the school department's budget, according to the teachers union.

Timothy M. Mennuti, president of the Teachers Union of Anne Arundel County, said the tentative agreement was reached last week, and will likely be voted on by teachers in October. Currently, the county's schoolteachers are working under a terms of employment agreement, because their three-year contract expired at the end of June.

Last month, Anne Arundel County Schools Superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell and the school board unanimously approved a $1 billion combined operating and capital budget that included furloughs and pay cuts across the board, in an effort to close a $46 million budget deficit.

Mennuti said the cuts, and specifically the furloughs, will hurt the school board's ability to recruit teachers. The furloughs will be scheduled when students are not in school, Mennuti said. For example, teachers are scheduled to begin school Aug. 17, about a week before students start Aug. 24. Now teachers will begin Aug. 18.

"Nobody's happy," Mennuti said. "I think it's a very difficult situation for the teachers and for the Board of Education. It makes it much harder for them to recruit teachers and retain teachers. People are putting off retirements. It's not good for anybody."

Maxwell and Board President Enrique M. Melendez said in a letter to employees last month that while they were able to avoid layoffs, they were "forced into a position" where they must furlough employees, who will also go without pay raises.

"While the County Executive has been able to provide merit pay increases to many employees and to avoid furloughs, we are not as fortunate," the letter read, continuing, "This is a regrettable action, but a shared sacrifice that is a far better alternative than a reduction in our work force that would inflict more pain both on those who would be without jobs and those who remain employed in our system."

The County Council passed its 2010 budget, which allocates $592 million to the county schools, a 1.3 percent increase over the previous year. The school board passed a $936 million operating budget and a $131 million capital budget.

"The county does recognize it was a very difficult assignment, because the county did the very same thing: We went in and analyzed the programs, and we made adjustments, and as a result of those adjustments, we avoided furloughs," said Robert C. Leib, special assistant to County Executive John R. Leopold for BRAC and education. "The decisions they made were the decisions they deemed best for their program."

Among the cuts that Maxwell and the board approved: Ninth-graders are going to have to pay to take the PSAT, a savings of $50,000. There will be no new textbooks, which will save $310,628. No employees will get raises, saving $17.8 million. Furloughs will save $7.6 million.

Teachers would be furloughed for three days, secretaries two days, and professional support staff, principals and the executive staff, including the superintendent, would serve five-day furloughs.

Bus drivers and aides are exempt from the furloughs under contract provisions that mandate the employees work the same amount of days that school is opened.

Despite the cuts, the school department will start a new Science, Technology, Engineering and Math magnet program at South River High School, add a second year of the same program at North County High School and begin a performing and visual arts magnet program at Bates Middle School.

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