Members of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County (TABCO) asked County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. at a budget town hall Wednesday night to fund Baltimore County Public Schools’ budget proposal so that educators can earn competitive pay.
Olszewski said he supports the educators’ pleas for better salaries and that BCPS should prioritize employee compensation with the “historic investments” it has been given. He said the county has increased investments in BCPS even as the system has experienced decreases in student enrollment.
“We want to do all that we can to pay all our employees more,” Olszewski said. “Our employees are the most important resource we have.”
BCPS Superintendent Darryl L. Williams crafted a budget proposal that was sent to the Board of Education in January. The board amended and approved the proposal Feb. 28, sending it next to Olszewski, who will then forward it to the County Council for final approval.
At a Board of Education meeting at the end of February, BCPS Chief Financial Officer Chris Hartlove said the amended operating budget for fiscal year 2024 would include increases to employee compensation paid for through state funds. Hartlove said the goal is to give teachers a cost-of-living adjustment, a salary step increase and a starting salary of $59,000; he said numbers would not be finalized until after negotiations.
At Wednesday’s budget town hall, the last in a series of community forums, TABCO members testified before the county executive and their fellow union members who filled the room. BCPS Spanish teacher Christine Phillips spoke about the need to retain talented teachers like her colleagues through increased salaries. BCPS teacher Capathia Campbell said she learned of a young educator at her school leaving BCPS for another district where they will earn $18,000 more.
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“I’m at a school where teachers are leaving,” Campbell said. “Your young, inspired educators are leaving.”
BCPS teacher Alex Levy, who is in his first year as an educator, said the county has the power to keep him in the system if he is better compensated for his work. He asked the county executive to fund a compressed pay scale for TABCO members so as to decrease the time it takes for employees to earn top pay levels.
Olszewski said he agrees with the teachers’ asks but that such a decision lies with BCPS.
“Whether or not we get there, our goal is to have the highest-paid workers in the state,” Olszewski said.
Members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) who work for BCPS shared their requests for “fair, livable” wages. Bryan Epps, president of AFSCME Local 434, said some union employees don’t make $15 hourly.
Olszewski said he made sure all Baltimore County government employees make at least $15 hourly. He said Baltimore County does not negotiate pay with AFSCME and TABCO. Those negotiations take place with BCPS.
Other constituents at the town hall also testified on issues related to BCPS, such as the desire for more magnet school placements, better diversity of employees to better reflect the student population, and increased athletic trainers in the school system.