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Editorial: Carroll County teacher salaries far more competitive after new agreement

Teachers can put away their red garb. They should keep the colorful clothes they have been wearing off and on in solidarity off and on for the past several years at functions such as Board of Education meetings to shine a light on sub-par salaries for educators in Carroll County for potential future use. But, for now at least, they can hang up the red shirts after some significant upgrades.

We have always been and will continue to be supportive of educators being paid a competitive wage and we decried the state-low starting salaries Carroll teachers were making only a few years ago. But after the agreements ratified this week between Carroll County Public Schools and four bargaining units (including the the Carroll County Education Association), salaries do appear to, finally, be more in line with the rest of the state and more commensurate with performance.

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The new agreements provide for a 3.5% raise. And because in the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, commonly referred to as the Kirwan Commision bill, the state agreed to kick in a 1.5% raise for teachers if the local school district could provide proof of at least a 3% raise, the actual increase for Carroll teachers will be 5%. Chief negotiator Tony Roman explained that the 5% raise will be distributed among the steps with emphasis on increasing compensation for teachers in steps 1 through 5. Eligible Carroll County Education Association members will receive a step increase.

The starting salary for Carroll County teachers will now be $48,000, up from $45,787. Superintendent Steve Lockard called the number “very competitive.”

He’s right. Only Montgomery County and Baltimore city had starting salaries of higher than $48,000 last school year, although, like Carroll, many other counties will likely take advantage of the Kirwan Commission bill incentive and raise starting salaries prior to next school year. Still, after ranking 12th out of 24 schools systems in the state last year, according to the Maryland State Department of Education, Carroll will likely rank higher now.

That’s a monumental change from just four years ago. During the 2014-15 school year, the starting salary for a teacher in Carroll was $40,400, which was the lowest in the state. Experienced teachers were way behind, too, and rightly outraged given Carroll County students’ performance on standardized tests, graduation rates and other measurables.

While Carroll still needs to focus on the steps and increasing veteran teachers’ salaries — in 2018-19, for example, a Carroll teacher with a master’s degree on Step 10 made $62,958, roughly 20% less than their equivalent in Montgomery County — the new agreement does illustrate how far Carroll has come in just a few years. And even if Carroll still lags a little, keep in mind that according to the most recent data available from the National Education Association, Maryland teachers’ average salary was $69,761, ranking No. 7 among U.S. states.

CCEA President Teresa McCulloh told us via email the negotiations were a hard-fought compromise and that CCEA members “deserve more compensation and we will work towards that next fall.” It’s her job to keep pushing for more for the 2,100 members (including teachers, guidance counselors and registered nurses), but educators should be happy with this deal and, in fact, voted overwhelmingly in favor of it.

The ratified agreements will be effective July 1 and the improved pay should help both in terms of retention and recruitment.

Teachers can still go to places like Baltimore city and Montgomery County to make more money, but when all factors — including parental involvement — are taken into consideration, Carroll County Public Schools suddenly looks far better than it did not so long ago.

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