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Thousands of Baltimore’s unionized teachers signed on to keep pushing for higher pay

Teachers Association of Baltimore County
John Lee
Teachers Association of Baltimore County rallied in May 2022 for higher pay raises.

The Baltimore County teachers union plans to apply pressure on the school board to keep its promise of salary increases during its meeting Tuesday night. The school board needs a new plan since county leaders have rejected previous renditions which would allocate a one-time influx of cash. County Executive Johnny Olszewski squashed the school board’s plan to pay for a nearly eight percent salary hike for educators, decrying the move as “fiscally unsustainable.”

The Teachers Association of Baltimore County expects to hand the school board a petition signed by 3,000 of its members which calls on the county and school system to hammer out an agreement, organizers said.

Union president Cindy Sexton said that the school system’s top brass wants to get a deal done.

“It’s coming from the top that they want to make it work,” Sexton said. “Then let’s sit down, find a way and make it work.”

The ongoing teacher shortage gives the union leverage, she said.

“The leverage is we can’t lose 1,000 educators again as we did last year,” Sexton said. “We just can’t. Our school system can’t sustain that.”

Baltimore County has more than 300 open educator positions, according to the union.

The school board previously tried to float a plan where it would use $50 million from its surplus fund to pay for the first year of the raises. But it needed Olszewski’s approval to do that. He rejected it because he said the school system had no plan for how the salary increases would be paid for after that.

Olszewski said he does support spending $14 million so a previously negotiated cost of living raise of 3% can take effect six months sooner.

Olszewski and members of the county council have pressed the public school system to cut its $2 billion budget to fund the salary increases, to show how it can afford to pay the teachers more without relying on one-time sources such as the surplus or federal COVID-19 relief money.

Baltimore County Public Schools Superintendent Darryl Williams submitted a new plan to Olszewski on Friday, according to a letter obtained by WYPR through a Maryland's Public Information Act open records request.

Williams pitched a proposal to the county described as a “five-year, fiscally sustainable plan,” according to the letter.

Among other things, the letter requests for increased county spending on schools each year. It also commits to cutting $16 million from the school system’s budget to help pay for the raises.

It remains to be seen if the cuts the school system is proposing go far enough to satisfy the council and the administration.

“I am dedicated to making sure our educators receive the competitive compensation they deserve, and the record education funding I have provided since taking office reflects this commitment,” Olszewski wrote in a statement. “We are in receipt of a proposed plan from BCPS for how to fund its supplemental budget request in the coming years, and we are reviewing the sustainability and fiscal responsibility of the proposed plan.”

School board chair Julie Henn said she remains confident the county executive and the school system will come to an agreement.

“We will get there,” Henn said. “The county executive wants to get there, the superintendent wants to get there and surely the board wants to get there.”

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