Some school officials have expressed concern about low salaries in the school system. The salary for a beginning teacher in Washington County is $25,075, ranking the county 21st in the state.
"When you're 21 out of 24, unquestionably that's a concern," said Bartlett, who added teachers here have done a "wonderful job."
"I think it's an issue we need to address and keep at the center of our attention," Bartlett told school board members.
Board Vice President B. Marie Byers commended Bartlett for presenting a "very courageous budget."
The school board has identified reading as a priority for students in coming years, and Bartlett's budget allocates $500,000 to hire 13 reading teachers for elementary schools.
Bartlett said not all elementary schools have a reading teacher.
Board members said they have been told that some students get 30-minute reading lessons every other day, which they said is not sufficient.
The $500,000 for the 13 reading teachers is part of $1.1 million Bartlett has set aside for additional teaching staff. Under Bartlett's budget, six elementary teachers, four middle school teachers and seven high school teachers would be hired to offset growth in student enrollment, officials said.
To fund the $108 million budget, the school board anticipates it will receive $51 million in state funds and $56 million from the Washington County Commissioners.
The county share would be about a $5.5 million increase over the amount the school system received from the County Commissioners last year, said Chris South, director of budget and finance for the Board of Education.
Gov. Parris Glendening today is expected to unveil his budget for the coming year. In that spending plan, Washington County schools are budgeted to receive $54.9 million in state funds in 1998, a $2.3 million increase over the current funding level.
Bartlett would not comment on the proposal because he said it's unclear how much the funding level might fluctuate when reviewed by lawmakers.
About 20 members of a group that is trying to restore instrumental music in elementary schools asked the school board to consider adding funds to the budget for music programs.
There was no funding in Bartlett's budget to restore instrumental music at the elementary school level, said Rob Hovermale, a member of the group.
Instrumental music in elementary schools was cut two years ago after principals said that it interfered with regular classes.
Hovermale's group said instrumental music not only introduces students to the arts, but helps them better understand other subject areas like science and math.
Members of Hovermale's group wore yellow T-shirts that read "bring back the instrumental music."
The school board will hold a series of public meetings to gather input on the budget. The spending plan will be sent to the County Commissioners on March 17.