This report was corrected March 7, 2012. An explanation follows the story.
Just what teachers are worth and what they should be paid is a national debate, and Montgomery County schools are not exempt.
For the past two years, teachers in Montgomery County Public Schools — along with all other school employees — have given up step-based salary increases. And for the past three years they also have waived cost-of-living increases. At the same time, on average, Montgomery teachers remain the best-paid in the state.
In comments prefacing his recommended fiscal 2013 budget, in which about $20 million is recommended for employee compensation increases, Superintendent of Schools Joshua P. Starr said these moves saved the school system $144 million, or about 10 percent of total salary obligations in the 2013 budget.
School officials have referred to employee unions as partners and say that after years of bowing to tight fiscal times, workers deserve to have their financial burdens lessened.
In a statement on the fiscal 2013 budget, Board of Education President Shirley Brandman (At large) of Bethesda said, “Our employees have helped us weather these difficult economic times by giving up their salary increases and, in many cases, doing more with fewer resources. It is important that we recognize their hard work and commitment and acknowledge their excellence.”
During the 2009-10 school year, the National Center for Education Statistics reported the average annual salary for a public school teacher in the U.S. was $55,350, about 3 percent higher than the average salary in 1990-91 after adjusting for inflation. The National Center for Education Statistics did not have statistics for the 2010-11 year nationwide.
The average salary in 2010-11 for Maryland teachers was $64,950. For Montgomery teachers, the average was $76,000, about $3,000 higher than the next highest-paying school system in Calvert County.
Those salary figures for Maryland include payments to employees such as guidance counselors, school psychologists and librarians.
The lowest salary a Montgomery teacher can earn, according to the teachers union’s salary schedule, is $46,400. By contrast, a teacher with a master’s degree plus 60 higher-education credits and 25 years in the school system earns $103,630, which also is the highest maximum salary for a teacher in any system in the state.
Question: Are Montgomery County Public School classroom teachers adequately compensated? Please explain your reasons for thinking they are or are not.
No response.— Lou August
Compensation must be set so we attract and retain the best teachers. MCPS pay scales are lower than Washington's, but comparable with compensation in surrounding jurisdictions. However, our teacher’s pay has been frozen for two years while others have been giving increases. We need to increase compensation to remain competitive. — Phil Kauffman
We need to attract the very best teachers. The traditional deal of slightly lower pay in exchange for pension benefits is increasingly under threat. I would favor increasing teacher pay in exchange for structural changes in long-term benefit programs. This would help our budget and attract great people.— Morris Panner
Teachers should be paid more, but that requires an overhaul like in New York, where Mayor Bloomberg is endeavoring to replace teacher tenure with merit pay, thereby institutionalizing a career structure that closer resembles corporate ladders. By realigning our objectives, we can achieve a better reality for teachers and students.— Aryeh Shudofsky
Teachers are the most academically influential people in the lives of our future generation. It is a difficult and often thankless job. I would like to see teachers better compensated if the budget given to MCPS allows it.— Saqib Ali
I think they are, yet they too often feel undercompensated due to working conditions that leave them embattled by conflicting policies and regulatory requirements, "curriculum bloat", demands to meet diverse student needs. These encumbrances must be mitigated to enable them to fulfill their teaching aspirations and feel better rewarded.— Susan Byrne
Sadly, MCPS teachers earn 8-11% less than their DC counterparts. Endorsed by teachers, I understand the sacrifices they make while providing our children the best education possible. Most open their wallets to supplement needed classroom supplies. With our county's high cost of living, teachers are not paid what they deserve. — Jeanne Ellinport
Education research confirms that an effective teacher is critical for student academic success. We should never hesitate to adequately compensate effective teachers, which has not been the case for the past three years. We must also have sound evaluation processes in place to ensure that effective teachers are teaching students.— Fred Evans
Our teachers are committed to their students, highly qualified, and dedicated to learning, and should get paid as much as our budget allows. The question that I will consider as a BOE member is “how do we balance a fair and competitive salary with other resources needed by students? — Rebecca Smondrowski
I strongly believe that MCPS employees receive fair compensation. The work to support student achievement done by our staff is what has made MCPS successful. At the same time, MCPS employees and all county employees deserve a raise.— Christopher Barclay
No response.— Annita Seckinger
Correction: This report was updated with the correct response from Phil Kauffman.