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Williams asks Baltimore County for significant increase in school spending

John Lee
Baltimore County School Superintendent Darryl Williams. Credit: John Lee

Baltimore County School Superintendent Darryl Williams proposed a budget for the coming year Tuesday night that would add more than 380 positions and pay educators more.

This comes as the school system grapples with not being able to fill all the positions it currently has.

Along with the staff shortages, Williams told the school board his proposed $2.4 billion budget deals with the increasing numbers of students who need to learn English, are in special education, qualify for free meals or are homeless.

Williams is asking Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski and the County Council to increase spending on schools by nearly 17%.

Williams acknowledged his request is very significant, “but we must address our critical needs.”

Since 2010, Williams said the number of English learners has increased by more than 200%. He said 54% of the county’s 111,000 students qualify for free and reduced meals.

Williams said the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the most vulnerable students.

Cindy Sexton, president of the teachers’ union, the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, said it appears to be a robust budget.

“With regards to not only compensation, but also new positions that are needed in the county,” Sexton said.

According to Charles Herndon, a spokesman for the county schools, there are 662 vacancies in the school system. That is a decrease from 827 vacancies in December.

Sexton said with the national staffing crisis in schools, Baltimore County needs to do what it can to both attract and keep its educators. She said specifically what those incentives might look like continues to be negotiated.

“We are hopeful that it is an attractive compensation package,” Sexton said.

The school board will hold a public hearing on the budget January 18. The board plans to pass its proposed budget in February and send it to Olszewski.

Sean Naron, a spokesman for Olszewski said, “We have just received BCPS’ submission and look forward to reviewing their request during our budget process.”

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