This month, thanks to Superintendent Joshua Starr, Montgomery County teachers will be receiving a 3.4 percent pay increase, the first increase since teacher salaries were frozen two years ago. Teachers will again see an increase next May. The average of the two increases is approximately 5 percent. Included in these increases are retroactive pay raises for teachers that would have been eligible for an increase last year.
No one would disagree that these teachers are deserving of a pay raise for their dedication to teaching our children. But you have to question the timing of increasing teacher base pay, which also impacts the already over-burdened teacher pension system, while the county's economic future is still certainly not bright.
Recently, the County Council announced that the county is looking at a $71 million budget deficit for fiscal 2014. Contributing to this shortfall are teacher pension costs that have shifted to the county from the state. The County Council, responding to this gloomy economic outlook, opted instead to give $2,000 bonuses to other county workers who also hadn't seen a pay increase in a few years.
The pay increases for Montgomery County teachers, already the best paid in the region, will be offset by increases in employees co-pays for doctor visits and prescription drugs along with a $27 million surplus. A surplus that may have been more wise to spend on decreasing class sizes which grew over the past few years because of teacher layoffs. An opportunity to improve the classroom experience for students and teachers was squandered.
The County Council, while it does set the county's school system overall funding, does not have the authority over determining teacher salary increases. That authority is in the hands of the Board of Education and Superintendent Starr. But, maybe it's time for the County Council to seek just such authority, since they seem to act more prudently and fairly with the taxpayer's dollars.
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