Moving to address a looming teacher shortage, Gov. Parris N. Glendening is expected to propose today spending nearly $90 million over two years to bolster teacher salaries around Maryland, according to sources familiar with the plan.
Glendening's initiative calls for a joint effort among the state and local jurisdictions that is designed to give teachers a 10 percent pay boost over the two-year period, sources said last night.
The governor's proposal would mark the first time in at least three decades that state funds have gone directly to teacher salary increases, matters that are the subject of collective bargaining between local school systems and teacher unions.
Sources said that under Glendening's proposal, counties that increase teacher salaries by 4 percent would receive a 1 percent add-on from the state.
Maryland has about 55,000 public school teachers, who earn an average salary of about $44,000, according to the Maryland State Teachers Association.
A 1 percent across-the-board raise for all teachers would cost about $24 million next year, the teachers union estimates.
Under a second component of the plan, many local school systems would qualify for extra state assistance to pay their share of the teacher raises or other educational expenses.
That part of the initiative is designed primarily to help the state's poorer counties and Baltimore, although wealthier jurisdictions will also qualify for extra grants, sources said.
Glendening and his aides declined to discuss his proposal last night.
The governor has called for increases in teacher salaries several times, most recently in his State of the State address last month.
"If we are serious about our commitment to teachers, and if we really want to attract and retain the best and the brightest in our classrooms, we must come together and help our teachers with a family-supporting, professional salary," Glendening told the General Assembly.
After the speech, some critics chided Glendening for calling for higher salaries without including funding for such an initiative.
Karl K. Pence, president of the state teachers union, said he had not heard details of the governor's plan, but he applauded the general idea.
"I appreciate the bully pulpit, but I've been arguing you need to put some cash on that, too," Pence said.
Maryland's teachers' salaries have dropped from eighth-highest in the nation in 1992 to 14th-highest now.
"To be competitive you have to get your salaries at a competitive level," Pence said.
The major education initiative comes three weeks after the governor presented his proposed $19.6 billion budget for next year to the General Assembly.
Money for the salary increases would be included in a supplemental budget the governor would submit to the legislature.
Glendening will also submit legislation to the General Assembly to establish a funding formula to implement the salary proposal.
His initiative would cover the next two years, sources said. The end of the two-year period coincides with the expiration of other state education funding formulas.
Sources said Glendening will propose using some of the state's share of the national tobacco settlement to pay for the teacher salary initiative. By tapping into that money instead of the state's main operating budget, the governor would avoid further exceeding the legislature's self-imposed spending limits.
The governor's salary proposal would accomplish several goals for the administration.
It probably would help the state deal with a major teacher shortage expected in coming years.
The salary plan would also be a major reward to the state teachers union, one of Glendening's most potent political constituencies.
The governor has been criticized by some key legislators for not putting more money in his education budget when the state has a $1 billion budget surplus.