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Teacher raises likely July 1

The Baltimore Sun

The Howard County Education Association says it will not sign new contracts containing an increase in salaries until the school system completes negotiations to establish a mandatory union fee.

But the teachers and support staff likely will get their raises July 1 as scheduled, even if their contracts are not signed by then. In a closed-door meeting Wednesday night, the Board of Education indicated it would grant the negotiated salary increases and health benefits by passing a resolution, according to schools spokeswoman Patti Caplan. Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin recommended the move.

Sue Mascaro, director of staff relations and operations for the school system, said she has been ready for the union to sign the contracts since May 10. "It was ratified by a majority of their members," Mascaro said.

Ann DeLacy, president of the HCEA, says that the contracts will be signed after the union fees, also referred to as fair share, are negotiated. More than 80 percent of the system's teachers are members of the association, but those who are not also benefit from the raises and working conditions negotiated by the union, DeLacy said.

The Maryland State Teachers Association, National Education Association and HCEA have fought for the past eight years to require the teachers and support staff in the school system who are not members to pay a fee for the union's services. When Gov. Martin O'Malley signed the legislation into law last month, the union received permission to enter into negotiations with the school system to establish a mandatory fee.

"As soon as the law was passed, the board should have started negotiations based on the fair-share legislation," DeLacy said. Negotiations on the issue between the school system and the union have not started, she said.

Mascaro said the fee negotiations and contracts are separate issues. She said the contracts could be signed without the completion of the negotiations between the school system and the union.

Even without signed contracts, the Board of Education would be able to implement certain aspects, such as the pay raises, according to Mascaro.

"The board really wants the employees to benefit from the terms of the agreement," Mascaro said. "It is a strong contract, and it is supportive of staff."

The contract would increase the starting salary for new teachers to $42,407, up from $40,080.

The Howard County Administrators Association and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees have signed their contracts with the school system.

Mascaro said that she has set aside time at the June 14 school board meeting for the HCEA to sign the contracts. DeLacy said that without the negotiation of the fee, the ceremonial signing will not occur.

"Until we have negotiated the reopener in terms of the provisions that would govern fair share within the contracts, we have not concluded negotiations, and the contracts cannot be signed," DeLacy said.

Mascaro said: "We hope they are there to sign."

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