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Howard teacher salaries, staff shortages tackled in meeting

With sweeping state education reform passed earlier this year, the Howard County Council and county Board of Education met Monday to discuss teacher salary increases and other budget issues related to the new mandates.

Also during the meeting at Board of Education headquarters, the council and school board discussed chronic staffing problems in numerous public school positions in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

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The new multi-billion-dollar Blueprint for Maryland’s Future school reform legislation was based on recommendations from the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, also known as the Kirwan Commission, named for former University System of Maryland chancellor William E. Kirwan, who led the crafting of the framework. It is slated to create significant changes to the state’s funding formula to local public schools.

The plan has five components focusing on early childhood education, high quality and diverse teachers and leaders, college and career readiness, resources to ensure all students are successful, and governance and accountability.

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Through its high quality and diverse teachers and leaders component, the law requires each local school board to implement a career ladder by July 1, 2024 that will include teacher salary increases. The Blueprint mandates that by July 1, 2026, the minimum teacher salary in Maryland will be $60,000.

Schools Superintendent Michael Martirano said during the meeting that increasing teacher salaries to levels specified in the law would involve “an incredible financial lift.” He said the school board has begun negotiations with collective bargaining units to determine how those increases will be accomplished.

Standards for all local districts will be distributed by the state by Feb. 15. Local boards must then submit their implementation plans to the state’s Accountability and Implementation Board by June 15. New funding formulas and programs related to the Blueprint begin July 1.

Staffing continues to be problematic in Howard schools. Four nurses resigned last week due to challenges associated with their work, Martirano said, and since the start of the current school year, shortages have existed in positions for bus drivers, custodians, food service, health assistants, nurses, paraeducators, recess monitors, teachers and student assistants.

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As of Dec. 8, the school system had 91 bus driver vacancies, 48 food and nutrition vacancies, 47 teacher vacancies, 38 paraeducator vacancies, 24 special education teacher vacancies, seven nurse vacancies and three health assistant vacancies.

Substitute teacher vacancies also were discussed. Officials said that administrators, paraeducators, teachers and central office staff have been called on to provide substitute teacher coverage at schools.

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