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Howard County executive commits $8 million for school teacher bonuses

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball on Monday committed $8 million in American Rescue Plan funding to bonus pay for Howard County Public School System educators.

The $8 million figure was determined based on ongoing discussions with the school system administration and educators, according to Ball’s office; as a condition of releasing the funds, Ball has requested final approval on the bonus structure.

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“The allocation plan, including the amount given per educator, [is] subject to negotiations with the school system’s respective bargaining units,” said Sasha Nader, communications specialist with Howard County government.

School board member Chao Wu applauded Ball’s actions.

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“I appreciate Dr. Ball’s help to provide bonuses to our teachers and staff,” he said. “They work really hard under pressure, and these bonuses are a part of appreciation to them.”

Colleen Morris, president of the Howard County Education Association, said Ball’s commitment is deeply appreciated and needed.

“This is good news at a time when we need to retain educators and staff so that we can continue to provide a high level of service to our community,” she said. “A collaborative approach like this supports our shared values as a county.”

In a letter to the Howard Board of Education, Ball requested that the school system use a portion of its $43.5 million federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund to match the county’s $8 million commitment to support educators, according to a news release.

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“Our educators have served as a lifeline to our students and their families through the pandemic, managing the demands of switching from virtual to hybrid modes of instruction, all the while caring for the health and safety of their own families,” Ball said in a statement. “For our teachers and support staff, these past two years have been especially grueling and I believe we must retain those committed educators that make our school system among the best in the nation.”

The commitment comes one month after Ball promised $2 million of the county’s American Rescue Plan funds to pay for retention bonuses for school bus drivers and attendants and signing bonuses to attract new hires.

The additional funding provides $5,000 in one-time incentives for all current bus drivers and attendants; a $1,500 signing bonus and up to a total of $2,500 in monthly incentive payments for all newly hired bus drivers and attendants; $3,000 over three months to help bus contractors recruit and hire new staff for the remaining vacancies and a 10% payment to bus contractors for each incentive bonus paid to bus drivers and attendants for overhead costs, according to a press release.

Last week, the Board of Education and the County Council held a joint meeting to discuss teacher salary increases and other budget issues.

Through the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, a multi-billion-dollar plan for school reform legislation, the minimum teacher salary statewide will increase to $60,000 by July 1, 2026.

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