ANNAPOLIS – In an attempt to alleviate the teacher shortage and improve summer school programs by attracting better instructors, state lawmakers introduced a bill to allow teachers to extend their contracts to a full year.
Under this $10 million proposal, teachers would have the option to work in tutoring, intervention, and enrichment programs during the summer and earn a wage equal to what they get the rest of the year.
Summer teachers now usually get a stipend lower than their regular salary. Also, their summer school work does not usually count toward retirement. The average teacher contract is for about 186 days, or 38 weeks, and summer work could add another eight weeks per year.
“I talk to young teachers all the time who say they’re frustrated with having to fill the gap over the summer months,” said Delegate William H. Cole IV, D-Baltimore.
More than 30 delegates, including House Speaker Casper Taylor, D-Allegany, are behind the bill.
Maryland State Teachers Association President Karl Pence said summer school programs offering better paychecks would entice better teachers and that, in turn, would help students prepare for state assessment exams.
“I think it would be a good inducement,” Pence said. “The focus should be on learning, not just making up for lost time.”
Several delegates with teaching experience endorsed the bill.
Delegate B. Daniel Riley, D-Harford, who teaches social studies at Magnolia Middle School in Joppa, said the contract extension would help financially strapped teachers who might otherwise be tempted to find more lucrative work in another field.
“It’s sad to see them leave because they’re not making enough to make it,” Riley said. “It’s tough, especially on the young ones.”
Delegate Paul Carlson, D-Montgomery, who taught in New York schools in 1996, helped explain the legislation to more than 60 children from Belle Grove Elementary School in Baltimore visiting Annapolis Tuesday.
“This bill is about you,” Carlson said.
Delegate Robert Zirkin, D-Baltimore County, chief sponsor for the bill, said he hopes it will bring more respect to the teaching profession.
The sponsors also hope the proposal will help lessen the state teacher shortage. Maryland will need 11,000 additional teachers by 2001, but state colleges only produce about 2,500 qualified educators each year, and half of those leave the state.
Last week, Gov. Parris Glendening proposed a 10 percent salary increase for public school teachers over two years. Counties providing a 4 percent increase would get an extra 1 percent from the state each year.
While the idea of higher teacher salaries has nearly unanimous appeal, some criticized Glendening’s approach. Several counties, particularly Queen Anne’s and Prince George’s counties, might have trouble rounding up their 4 percent, the Washington Post reported.
Critics charge that the governor’s $90 million proposal would favor wealthy school districts and senior teachers who already have higher salaries. Those critics include Catherine Brennan, staff director for the New Maryland Education Coalition, who also said enhancement funding totaling $20 million of Glendening’s proposal would be distributed unequally and benefit poorer districts, like Baltimore City and Prince George’s County, the least.