Teacher Vacancies Persist In BCPS Despite New Pay Scale, Adding To Statewide Educational Challenges
BALTIMORE COUNTY - Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) is again facing a high number of staff vacancies just over a month before the start of the 2023-2024 academic year.
WBAL reports that BCPS had 414 unfilled positions as of July 25 - the most of any school system in the state, mirroring a similar crisis last year when the county was left with 400 unfilled positions with one week to go before the school year kicked off.
Across the state, schools are feeling the residual effects of the pandemic. More than 5,500 Maryland teachers left their positions in 2022, according to the Maryland State Department of Education.
BCPS's Local Education Agency's Blueprint Implementation Plan identified Career and Technical Education (CTE), English as a Second Language (ESOL), math, science, special education, and world languages as especially understaffed.
"This is in part because of the relatively low numbers of students in colleges of education that are electing to become certified in these harder-to-fill content areas," BCPS wrote.
Baltimore County Schools have significantly underperformed in recent years, illustrating the ongoing effects of the school staff shortage and online learning.
In the 2022-2023 School Comprehensive Support and Improvement report, all 27 schools categorized as Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) Lowest Performing are located in Baltimore City or Baltimore County.
The proficiency rates in English Language Arts (ELA), math, and science were significantly lower in these schools compared to the state's average. Additionally, chronic absenteeism rates were more than double the average, while Baltimore area School Survey scores were noticeably lower for both students and educators.
The teacher shortage has not gone unnoticed by local and state lawmakers. The Maryland state legislature passed the Maryland Educator Shortage Reduction Act of 2023 earlier this year. The act includes scholarships for education students and up to $20,000 to assist teacher interns in graduation and job acquisition.
In June, BCPS reached an agreement with the Teachers Association of Baltimore County (TABCO) on a new pay scale for teachers. Under the contract, teachers on a 12-month payroll with bachelor's degrees could expect a basic salary of $69,615, marking a raise of 4.9% to 6.5%, depending on their hiring date. According to BCPS, the starting salary for all new teachers currently stands at $58,500 per year.
This raise positions Baltimore County ahead of other central districts in terms of starting salaries, giving it an edge in the competitive recruitment market. For the 2022-2023 school year, Anne Arundel County's starting salary stood at $50,247, Baltimore City's at $53,898, Carroll County's at $50,061, Harford's at $54,195, and Howard's at $56,804, according to their respective teacher's unions.
In October 2022, the state reported the average teacher salary as $79,420. Baltimore County ($75,841) ranked third on the list behind Baltimore City ($77,769) and Harford County ($76,277).
Cheryl Bost, the head of the Maryland State Education Association, noted that recruitment is one of many concerns for school districts.
"We also have a retention problem... that does not make it easy to retain the quality teachers we want," Bost told WBAL. She added that teachers are increasingly frustrated with the "disrespect and the politicization of our schools," causing some to transition careers.
Despite the numerous challenges, BCPS administrators remain optimistic, believing that there is still time to recruit educators who have yet to sign teacher contracts for the upcoming school year. A series of recruitment events are scheduled through October 27, with the goal of highlighting competitive salaries, and newly appointed Superintendent Myriam Yarbrough's vision for the school system.
According to BCPS's hiring portal, the school system is currently hiring for 39 unfilled elementary through High School teaching positions.
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