Teachers in Harford County Public Schools make less than teachers in one of Maryland's poorest counties, Allegany County, Ryan Burbey, president of the Harford County Education Association, told members of the Harford County Board of Education at their meeting Monday night.
The difference, Burbey told the school board, is a multi-year salary freeze for teachers in Harford County, coinciding with the economic downturn, has stifled teachers' raises based on performance milestones, or steps.
But in Allegany County, which Burbey called a "poorer" county, teachers have continued to get their performance-based step raises every year.
"If one of the poorest counties in the state can find funding for salary increases, why can't Harford County?" Burbey said in an interview.
Upon hire, Harford teachers with bachelor's degrees earn $41,583 a year and teachers in Allegany earn $42,345, based on a comparison table presented by Burbey during the meeting. Burbey did not identify the source of his information.
By their sixth year teaching, Harford step-two teachers with bachelor's degrees are earning $42,829, but teachers in Allegany are earning $48,191 for the same years and steps, according to Burbey.
Initially, Harford teachers with master's degrees earn $44,114 annually, which is $560 more than the starting salary for a teacher with a master's degree in Allegany County, Burbey said.
At year 12, Harford's step eight, teachers in Allegany with master's degrees out-earn Harford County teachers by $7,050, according to Burbey's presentation.
"For beginning teachers we pay less," Burbey said. "We pay conservatively less as their career goes on."
Burbey said by year 15, Harford County teachers begin to catch up with those in Allegany County.
Burbey said the salary freeze for Harford teachers is "an error in judgment" and is deteriorating the morale of the school system.
"Principals don't know whether their staff will be back next year," Burbey said. "The system is unstable as it stands, and each year we will be back at this position."
Next year, teachers who started at the beginning of the salary freeze will be expected to have master's degrees, Burbey said. He said he does not know how many could afford it.
Members of the Harford board of education and Superintendent Barbara Canavan remained quiet on the subject at Monday's meeting, offering no comments following the short presentation.