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Local: Education

Montgomery County teachers get $45 million in raises under proposal

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Local,Maryland,Education,Rachel Baye,Montgomery County

Montgomery County Public Schools teachers and staff would receive an additional $45 million over the next two years under a proposed contract with the school system's three unions.

Under the proposal, roughly 22,000 teachers, support staff and principals would receive a step increase or, for those employees who are already at the top of their pay grade, a 2 percent raise on Feb. 8, 2014.

Teachers received a similar raise last year -- a step increase on July 1 for those who were eligible and a 2 percent raise for those who were not -- and the promise of a retroactive step increase that goes into effect May 4, 2013. They did not receive any raises the previous three years.

The retroactive step increase would cost the schools $22.1 million in fiscal 2014, while the new contract, if approved by union members, would cost an additional $18.6 million in fiscal 2014, bringing the total cost for next fiscal year to $40.7 million. The new contract also carries an additional cost of $26.4 million in fiscal 2015.

The pay increases are already in the school system's proposed budget released last month, according to spokesman Dana Tofig. The roughly $2 billion budget is $57.5 million above last year's budget and requires $3.8 million more from county taxpayers than state law requires the county to pay.

"If we are able to provide compensation increases for our employees, that is something that we feel is worth it because our employees are worth it," Tofig said.

Teachers are expected to vote on the proposal before spring break begins March 25, said Montgomery County Education Association President Doug Prouty. Though he called the agreement "modest," he recommended teachers approve it.

David Rodich, executive director of the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, chapter that represents MCPS' support staff, agreed.

"We are confident that we achieved everything possible in the current economic environment," he said.

County Executive Ike Leggett has agreed to give all three of the county government's unions -- the police, firefighter and government employee unions -- raises in the fiscal 2014 budget, which is scheduled for release Friday. The largest raise is going to members of the Municipal and County Government Employees Organization, who will receive 13.5 percent raises over the next two years.

But County Councilman Craig Rice, D-Germantown, questioned whether the teachers needed more money.

Parents and teachers have asked for more professional development for teachers and smaller class sizes, but salaries did not come up, said Rice, who sits on the committee.

The schools' budget does not have solutions for the achievement gap -- which a study released Tuesday highlighted -- or large class sizes, he said.

"Why would I give you additional money for something you're not addressing, that the stakeholders in your community say aren't being addressed?" he asked. "I can only see giving money to a system that's ... responding to its community stakeholders."

rbaye@washingtonexaminer.com

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