Howard County Executive Calvin Ball and county schools Superintendent Michael Martirano have announced an agreement for the county government and school system to jointly provide $16.1 million in bonus money to public school employees.
The announcement Tuesday came one month after Ball offered $8 million in American Rescue Plan funding for educator bonuses and requested that the school board match the county’s commitment.
The school system responded to the county’s request by providing $8.1 million of its own federal funding, from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund III grant, to support bonuses for county educators.
When combined, the funding will be used this year to provide a total of $1,800 each to nearly 8,400 full-time school system educators. Bonuses will be prorated for part-time employees, according to a news release from Ball.
“This bonus ... demonstrates our appreciation for the hard work of our school employees during this consistently evolving and challenging time,” Ball said.
On Jan. 13, the Howard County school system implemented a 25% increase to the daily rate for substitute teachers, as approved by the Board of Education. That pay increase puts the school system among the highest paying districts in the state for substitute teachers.
“Our employees have had to pivot multiple times during this pandemic while tending to their families, yet their commitment to nurturing and educating our students has never wavered,” Martirano said. “As we contend with staff shortages, increased demands on workload and a changing pandemic, these bonuses are just a small token of our appreciation.”
Martirano said bonuses would be paid in two installments, on Feb. 4 and June 24.
Colleen Morris, president of the Howard County Education Association, the professional association that represents county teachers and support professionals in collective bargaining with the school system, said she is thrilled with the commitment to provide bonuses to school employees.
“This bonus is welcome news to the over 8,000 educators and staff in our county and it couldn’t have come at a better time,” she said. “We have a long way to go to address the recruiting and retention crisis facing our schools, but [Tuesday’s] announcement of a bonus means that Howard County is committed to doing what it takes to ensure that our staff feel valued and appreciated.”