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Teacher pay and safe schools focus of rally in Baltimore County

Dozens attend a rally calling for BCPS to raise teacher pay and make schools safer. Credit: John Lee

The Baltimore County’s teachers’ union and the Randallstown Branch of the NAACP joined forces Tuesday night to pressure the school system to both raise teacher pay and make schools safer.

The organizers of the rally outside the county school board meeting said those two issues are connected.

Baltimore County is struggling to find enough educators. Rally organizers blame low pay, long hours and unsafe schools. Marchetta McLean, who teaches at Millbrook Elementary School, said teachers the school system hires often quit.

“I know, personally, teachers who have quit mid-year this year,” McLean said. “Literally said ‘I resign’ and walked out the day after. That’s a problem.”

Advocates said school buildings are less safe because there are fewer adults around. In order to attract more teachers, they want a pay raise greater than the 3% hike currently planned.

“We need fully-staffed schools to address discipline concerns, safety concerns and student academic achievement,” said Cindy Sexton, the President of TABCO, the Teachers Association of Baltimore County. “The only way we are going to get fully-staffed schools is by giving them a better compensation package and having conversations around workload issues.”

In April during his budget message, Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olsewski said teachers on average will see a 6.5% increase in their pay, including the 3% raise and other increases in compensation. Sexton takes issue with that.

“It is accurate for a part of the salary scale but certainly not across the board,” Sexton said.

Olszewski’s budget is now being reviewed by the County Council, which cannot add to his spending plan. So any further increase in teacher pay will have to be made by the school system.

“The money is there to pay our people so we can address the needs of our students,” Sexton said.

Inez Franklin, who is a paraprofessional, told the dozens of people attending the rally that the county school system must remain competitive with nearby school systems.

“We do not want to leave,” Franklin said. “We enjoy the work that we do.”

Franklin said it is tough to remain in the school system “because our paychecks are not keeping up with inflation. BCPS, do the right thing.”

In a statement, school system spokesman Charles Herndon said Superintendent Darryl Wlliams is committed to improving school safety and staff compensation.

Henrdon wrote, “BCPS has taken many steps to address the issues surrounding school climate, student behavior, staff compensation and school safety that currently impact every school district in America.”

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