But it must find the money to pay for it.
A new contract with the Frederick County Teachers Association was ratified Wednesday night by the Board of Education. But that's not the end of the story.
School Board members Jimmy Reeder and Brad Young voted against it. They said there's no way to pay for the agreement. "We've negotiated something here that, at least to this moment, I don't see how we're going to pay for it, and how we're going to take care of it future years out," says Reeder.
Young made a motion to defer action on the contract until the school system's funding situation is more clear. "We're doing it basically without any kind of road map. We're doing it on just the faith that we're going to find $15-million out of the blue. Something got to give somewhere, and for me to feel comfortable voting for it, I need to know how it's going to be funded," he says.
The contract contains a step increase for eligible employees effective July 1st, 2013. There's also a continuation of the joint Teacher Salary Task Force to come up with recommendations by December 1st, 2013 for the 2013-14 negotiations and deliberations, and it requires teachers to pay 9% more in contributions to their employee insurance program.
FCTA President Gary Brennan said those on the Board of Ed who voted for this contract show they value school system employees. "I am disappointed that some BOE members are sticking to the belief that competitive and fair salaries for employees should come last as a budget priority," he says. "Your employees deserve better than that."
That comment was echoed by Board of Ed Vice President Joy Schaefer, who pointed out that the school system's top priority is staffing. "Not just staffing, or adequate staffing, but the highest level and the highest quality of staffing," she said. "I've said this over and over again: the most important resource that we make available to our students is the teacher that stands in that classroom. Period!"
The County Commissioners have said that they will only fund the school system at maintenance of effort, and an additional $3-million for technology and systemic improvements. Commissioner Billy Shreve, the liaison to the Board of Ed, reminded the School Board of that Wednesday night. "We can work together to change the 2007 maintenance of effort law. But even if maintenance of effort is changed, we don't have $15-million," he said.
Maintenance of effort is where the school system would receive close to the same amount of money in fiscal year 2014 that it received in fiscal year 2013. FY 2014 begins on July 1st, 2013.
The Board of Ed will meet next Wednesday from 1:00 PM until 4:00 PM to try to find reductions in its budget to help pay for the FCTA agreement. Commissioner Shreve said the School Board may need to look at increasing class sizes, which it has rejected in the past.