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Teachers voting on new contract; anger over loss of step increases, change in pay system

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BALTIMORE COUNTY—Baltimore County teachers are voting this week on their new contract — and it could be headed to an impasse.

There is disagreement around two key issues: a 1 percent cost of living (COLA) increase rather than the usual “step increases,” and moving from a 10-month pay system to a 12-month system.

Currently, a teacher’s salary is paid out over 10 months; the change would spread it out over 12 months (smaller paychecks spread out over an entire year, as opposed to larger paychecks but two months without being paid at all — the summer, obviously).

“People have been fighting for years to have their pay spread over 12 months so they get some money in the summer,” said a Baltimore County teacher who asked not to be identified. “People are [angry] the superintendent didn’t fund our step increases.”

“Step increases” are a salary scale in which teachers are paid more each year, based on their degree (Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctorates).

In lieu of the step increases, the Teacher’s Association of Baltimore County (TABCO) negotiated the 1 percent COLA.

TABCO told the teachers the Baltimore County Council provided the same exact budget as last year (the bare minimum the law allows).

According to TABCO in its presentation of the proposed contract to its members, the county council was pushing Baltimore County Public Schools to have no raises, but TABCO fought for the 1 percent COLA.

“Baltimore County Police and Fire get no raises until June 30, 2021, the document read. “Our raise takes effect July 1 2020. COLA’s are better for career earnings than step increases.”

That was disputed.

“It’s better for the old people at step 30, because they’re maxed out,” a teacher said. “”It’s worse for just about everyone else. They were offered that by BCPS because it’s cheaper, which should tell you all you need to know.”

(The Step increases max out at Step 30.)

Another teacher said county government wants the school system to open up money for teachers by cutting back on central administration, but BCPS refuses.

“Central admin are people who work in offices and not in schools, with kids,” the teacher said. “We should cut the fat, return the money to the schools. But BCPS refuses to cut central admin.”

As for the 10-to-12 month pay model, the main sticking point appears to be that it will take two years to implement, when teachers want it now.

It will also be optional; teachers who want to keep the 10-month pay system can do so.

Other key points of the proposed contract:

No furloughs or layoffs in 2020-21;

A new category of ‘assault leave’ for educators who are assaulted on the job. They will receive full pay, and not charged sick leave;

Additionally, teachers injured on the job will receive full pay for up to 12 months, without being charged sick leave. Teachers injured on the job and out for more than 12 months will be on a leave of absence receiving worker’s compensation;

Teachers cannot be called upon to search for weapons, hazardous materials or the source of a suspected fire;

Mandatory meetings to discuss significant disturbances in school, to identify causes, and steps to prevent future recurrences;

If teachers are threatened, witness violence, or see students arrested, administrators will meet with them to determine if they need mental health support;

Total ban on workplace bullying;

Teachers may participate in union activity without retaliation.

Voting began on Friday and will end on Thursday.

If teachers reject the proposed contract, an “impasse” could be declared which would result in a new contract worked out by a third party.

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