UPDATE: Hundreds of Teachers Protest at Baltimore County
Baltimore County public school teachers will rally at a Baltimore County Board of Education meeting on the evening of Tuesday, Feb. 5 to protest austerity measures, including budget and staff cutbacks.
Teacher protests have swept the nation over the past year–most recently in Virginia, where teachers staged a one-day walkout, and Los Angeles, where teachers won pay raises and class size reductions after striking for more than a week.
Educators in Baltimore County have similar concerns. TABCO, the union that represents 9,800 teachers, told The Real News they are attending the meeting “to make sure that Baltimore County leadership, the County Council and County Executive, do what’s right for the students and educators of our county by fixing the budget deficit and properly funding schools and raises.” According to a 2018 report by progressive think tank Economic Policy Institute, Maryland teachers make 14.4% less than comparably educated workers.
An initial budget proposal that funded teacher cost of living increases, annual raises mandated in the teachers’ contract, and additional high school staff was walked back by Board leadership after new County Executive John “Johnny O” Olszewski revealed a budget deficit. Interim Superintendent Verletta White submitted a revised budget, which sparked outcry.
In a press release, the Board emphasized they are still considering changes to the budget, and it has not been finalized. “The Board of Education is committed to supporting our dedicated professionals who positively impact our students every day. The operating budget is very much a work in progress,” said Board Chair Kathleen Causey.
On Jan. 28, Baltimore County teachers union president Abby Beytin sent an email to her members urging them to attend Tuesday’s board meeting. The email warns of the impact the budget could have on teachers and their classrooms: “Those staff increases would have helped address our problems with student behavior and special education and helped decrease class size,” the email said.
Through a spokesperson, Olszewski, a former Baltimore County teacher, said the budget should not be balanced at the expense of educators. “We must prioritize our spending so that we can put our people first. I am confident there are opportunities for savings that will not deny our educators what they deserve.”
The school board will hold a public input session on on Feb. 12, and is scheduled to vote on the budget on Feb. 19. Over 113,000 students attend Baltimore County Schools.