- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Those who can, do; Those who cannot, teach.
For some of us, that kitschy saying is amusing. Others take it as insulting. A few more hear it and shrug.
We are in a strange time, folks. The Maryland General Assembly is tightening its belt, while focusing its gaze on raising taxes on gas to fund transportation projects (hardly any of which are earmarked for Southern Maryland), squeezing gun-ownership rights and repealing the death penalty.
We can argue the merits of any and all of these issues until we pass out from frustration. But, currently, there are hundreds of Calvert County teachers expecting a 1-percent raise this coming year, a raise negotiated by the Calvert Education Association and the Calvert County Board of Education. At a recent hearing where the board of education’s budget was first presented to the Calvert County commissioners for approval, several CEA members (the CEA being the union representing Calvert teachers) strongly urged the commissioners to fully fund the $115,284,793 million budget requested by Superintendent Jack Smith.
During the hearing, it was revealed the commissioners planned to fund a county government budget of $233.7 million, which includes a more than $7 million deficit, a margin that is certainly not easily recovered.
The commissioners have one duty when it comes to the budget for the public schools: sign off on the funds. The superintendent and the board of education will then decide how the money is spent. Months of negotiating between the teachers union and the board of education resulted in a contract agreement for the 1-percent salary increase, along with measured step increases for qualifying educators.
So someone has been painted into a corner. Is it the board of education for agreeing to fund raises, knowing the state of Maryland is shifting some of the pension costs for teachers back onto counties, along with reducing other funding for education?
Is it the union for aiming high, once again, and forcing the board of education into a position where both negotiating parties knew there would be casualties, including cutting jobs, salaries and learning resources?
Is it the county commissioners, who were beset with nearly unanimous support from the CEA and teachers to fully fund the superintendent’s requested budget?
What is troubling is that in the majority of the testimony offered at the March 26 hearing, one theme, in several different ways, was repeated: If you do not pay teachers well, kids will suffer.
We can all agree the role of teachers in the modern age has vastly changed from when many of us were growing up. Many adults can remember the days of yore; when we came home with an unfavorable grade, it certainly was not the teacher’s fault: it was ours. We failed in some way. Nowadays, that is not always the case. Teachers do indeed spend a lot more of their personal time grading papers, meeting with parents for conferences and responding to phone calls in order to answer angry, pointed accusations as to why a child flunked a test. Teachers now are attacked for failing to perfect a child more than they were 25 years ago.
They are also, with nearly every presidential or gubernatorial election, being asked or ordered to change their way of teaching, which the majority of current teachers have been doing since they landed a job. We don’t think anyone has that many changes of leadership and philosophy in other workplaces.
All of this being said, here is the rub: It is a difficult time for the federal, state and local governments to fund anything, and, unfortunately, education funding is going to take a blow in Calvert, among other places. All parties involved have an equal part in making choices about where the brunt of the blow will land. Do the children we entrust to educators to ensure a quality education suffer because their teacher did not receive a raise? Do the county commissioners bear the blame for not throwing money at the school system they are entrusted to fund? Is it the Maryland General Assembly for passing the buck? Is it the governor? Is it Congress? Is it the president?
The blame game could go on forever.
This 1-percent pay raise and step increase argument should not determine the quality of education in this county; 100 percent of the education community should figure out how to work with what they are given as they always have in the past. Calvert County schools continue to rival every school system in the state and most of the nation in the quality of education. Educators, and those who fund it, do not have to be happy about the funding level right now. They should not be. And we understand why. The promise of a great education is something every child born in this country should expect.