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Starting pay for teachers is discussed

April 18, 2002|BY TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Some Washington County Board of Education members said Wednesday they think the starting salary for teachers should be higher, but said the school system doesn't have the money to raise it this year.

Claude Sasse, the president of the Washington County Teachers Association, on Tuesday asked the School Board to raise the starting salary for teachers to $40,000 a year to attract educators to the school system.

School Board members J. Herbert Hardin and Doris Nipps on Wednesday agreed that the starting salary should be higher, but said the board is grappling with a tight budget year and can't afford to raise it.

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"There isn't that kind of money out there," Hardin said. "It would take us quite a few million."

Starting teachers currently make $31,422 a year, which ranks Washington County as the 18th highest paying public school system in the state, according to the Maryland State Department of Education. Maryland has 24 public school systems. Montgomery County, which leads the state in beginning teachers salaries, pays $35,087.

Sasse pitched the increase to the School Board Tuesday night, while holding up an orange sticker that said "$40K Right Away."

"How are we going to get people to even listen to us at the salary that we're offering?" Sasse said Wednesday.

The School Board hired more than 120 teachers for this school year. The school system has a total of about 1,450 teachers.

The School Board would have to use the $4.5 million allocated for the school's Capital Improvement Plan and take money from other departments to afford to raise the starting salary to $40,000, Hardin said.

Sasse said that new teachers are often "Generation Xers" who have the mindset to leave jobs right away if they don't like what they see. Generation X is the classification given to those born after 1965.

"They're not individuals who will stay around to see if the situation is going to get better," Sasse said. "They will move in an instant."

"I agree with Claude," Nipps said. "I think the beginning teaching salary should be higher, but at this point, I'm not sure how we can do that."

Hardin said that a higher starting salary would serve as a "billboard" that would attract new teachers to the county.

"When you're riding down the highway, you do see billboards and you do react to them," Hardin said. "The billboard for Washington County, is what are you paying?"

Nipps said the School Board and teachers might want to consider meeting to discuss other ways to make the school system attractive to teachers, such as offering signing bonuses.

Sasse suggested paying teachers extra to put toward closing costs on homes and providing financial incentives to veteran and mentor teachers.

"We can't just keep playing around with the numbers we have had in the past," Sasse said. "It's just not working anymore."

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