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Teachers Criticize Pay And Working Conditions In Baltimore County

John Lee

Since August, around 180 teachers, therapists, social workers and nurses have resigned from Baltimore County Public Schools. And that does not include staff who have retired and teachers who have gone on leave.




That’s according to the teachers’ union, which said educators are leaving the profession because of the pay, the workload and unruly kids in the classroom.


TABCO, the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, said the educators who have resigned would be nearly enough to staff four elementary schools. 


Stephen Durst has seen them come and go. He teaches deaf and hard of hearing students at Villa Cresta Elementary School in Parkville. He said in the past five years, there has been a high turnover of trained interpreters.


“They’re not paid very well, so there’s no kind of incentive to stay if you can go to work as an interpreter at an agency, make a lot more money than if you were working at a school,” Durst said.


Pikesville Middle School teacher Leslie Whiten has been teaching 27 years. She said she’s had enough.


“I am tired to my bones, to my soul,” Whiten said. “I am frustrated. I am angry all of the time. I don’t like the person that I have become.”


Whiten said she will retire next year when she turns 62 and becomes eligible for Social Security. If she stuck around three more years, there would be more in her retirement nest egg. But she said it isn’t worth it. Whiten said county teachers are overwhelmed by crowded classrooms. Plus, they are not getting the help they need to work with special education students in their classes.


“You see so many behaviors that are just over the top cuckoo and you know, we just don’t have the people to get to a lot of these children” Whiten said.   


And it’s likely going to get harder to attract new teachers. A study by The Economic Policy Institute predicts a growing teacher shortage in the years ahead, because people are turned off by the low pay and working conditions.


At TABCO’s recent legislative breakfast, politicians and educators gave their full-throated support to the recommendations of the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, commonly called the Kirwan Commission. They form a plan to spend $4 billion more on education in Maryland. The increase would be phased in over 10 years. 


Cheryl Bost, president of the Maryland State Education Association, said that would mean more than $1.7 billion of additional education money for Baltimore County over the next decade. She said that would help the county hire and keep teachers and support staff by paying them more, reducing class sizes, and giving special ed students more help.


“The whole funding package could estimate to be $2 million per school," Bost said.


That is a statewide average.


Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, has been critical of the costs of the Kirwan Commission’s proposals, questioning how the ideas can be paid for without massive tax increases. Democratic leaders said they do not plan to hike taxes to pay for Kirwan.


None of Baltimore County’s GOP state legislators attended the teachers’  union’s breakfast. The only elected Republican in the room was County Councilman David Marks.


“I think everyone is interested in passing school funding bills that have no tax increases,” Marks said. “And if that can be achieved, everyone should support that.”


Baltimore County School Superintendent Darryl Williams is expected to announce his proposed budget for the coming year at Thursday’s school board meeting. He promised educators that no matter what happens with state funding, his budget will include money for what he calls aggressive and systemic professional development.


“So, that’s the commitment, regardless of what’s being funded, what we can do to make sure we keep our employees,” Williams said.


Of the nearly 180 resignations so far this school year, a Baltimore County schools spokesman says 79 were teachers. There currently are about 60 teaching vacancies


Baltimore County Public Schools is holding a teacher job fair Monday, January 13, from 4-6 p.m. at its headquarters at 6901 N. Charles Street. The school system said it is recruiting for all teaching positions.


John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2
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