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As Long as We Remember...

March 22, 2012

When is what you get not enough?

Blaine R. Young

I’m sure you saw the story that broke this week from the head of the Frederick County Teachers Association announcing that teachers will no longer work beyond their prescribed work day as set forth in their collective bargaining agreement.


From now into the foreseeable future, teachers will watch the clock; and when the bell rings, the needs of their students apparently will take a back seat to the demands of their union.


This is unfortunate. I went through 12 years of schooling in the Frederick County Public Schools and remember many talented and dedicated teachers who went well above and beyond the call of duty. They made the school experience in Frederick County much richer and rewarding than it otherwise would have been.


I’ve seen the same thing from the current generation of teachers with my two sons who are both in the Frederick County school system. They have had wonderful teachers through elementary school. I have seen many instances where teachers have been in the school well past the end of the school day tending to the needs of their students. This is what makes our public schools one of the very best in Maryland and in the region.


But the union leader is not happy with the Board of Education, and by extension with the Board of County Commissioners. So, as a negotiating chip, he has decided to order his union members to curtail the extra services they routinely provide to the students; and, from my experience, genuinely enjoy doing for the children. This saddens me more than anything else.


It is time for a few facts. If you listen to union leadership you would think that our teachers have received no raise at all for as far back as the eye can see. But did you know that for the seven year period between fiscal 2003 and fiscal 2009, between the annual COLA and step increases, Frederick County teachers received an average annual increase of more than 6.5%.


In fiscal 2010 and 2011, in response to tough budgetary decisions that had to be made by the Board of Education and the prior Board of County Commissioners, the COLA and step increases were eliminated, but in 2011 there was a onetime payment made to those teachers who participated in the insurance program, a refund from previously paid premiums; and in 2012 there was a 1.5% onetime payment which did not add to the salary base.


So, let’s look at what these numbers mean. A teacher who started in our school system at a base salary of $40,000 in fiscal 2003, would today in fiscal 2012 be earning over $63,500 (including the onetime 1.5% enhancement this year).


So, over the past 10 years the teacher who started in 2003 has seen his or her salary increase by 56.86%.*


Now, I don’t know about you, but from where I sit in my business I don’t see many in the private sector who would be complaining about earning more than 56% more than they were earning 10 years ago. But the head of the union which represents our Frederick County teachers has thrown down the gauntlet, apparently willing to do whatever is necessary to justify his salary to his union membership.


As I said at the beginning, I think this is very unfortunate. I will bargain as hard as anyone wants to bargain with whomever is sent before me. But I would never involve the interests of my children or anyone else’s children in financial negotiations. I don’t think the Frederick County Teachers Association should either.


*The calculations in this column were based on information contained in the school system’s response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. There is also the assumption that the teachers receive a step increase in each of the first 10 years of employment.


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