Blaine Young and the Board of County Commissioners have been so consistently hostile to our schools, our children and the future of our county over the last five years that a once excellent school system is now endangered. The quality of education surely will sink if this keeps on.
By refusing for so many years to increase funding beyond the state-required minimum, the Young board has forced teachers to keep on giving of themselves even as the buying power of their frozen pay shrinks year after year.
As a result, I have learned, more and more teachers are demoralized and many are quitting a profession that once brought them satisfaction and public esteem. Half now take second jobs, most typically as a restaurant server.
“I don’t know how much longer I can hang on,” one teacher told me. “It’s pretty clear Frederick County government doesn’t value its educational system the way it used to.”
Another veteran teacher confirmed this view. Are teachers getting discouraged, I asked. She shuddered and said, “It’s horrible.” She said colleagues long known as especially dedicated and enthusiastic are now stressed and embittered. It is well-known that teachers’ emotions shape students’ emotions.
School officials say they are having a harder time recruiting new teachers, the main reason being that Frederick County now pays so poorly.
How bad is it?
Frederick County, the eighth wealthiest in per capita income in Maryland, ranks 22nd of the state’s 23 counties in pay for first-year teachers. It’s a little better if you come with 10 years of experience. There we’re 14th from the top. School officials say that when potential recruits find out how little Frederick County pays, they often opt for a neighboring county. Washington County ranks 17th in wealth but pays first-year teachers $3,000 more per year. Montgomery County pays $6,000 more.
When our starting pay is $40,706, those differences are significant.
The picture for Frederick teachers is worse in still other ways. Even as the pay scale remains flat, deductions for such things as medical insurance keep rising, leaving teachers with take-home pay that shrinks year after year. And, of course, inflation cuts still deeper into buying power.
The bottom line is that the “Blaine Young Board of County Commissioners,” as Young likes to style it, is forcing schools in 2014 to operate on a 2009 budget. It’s worth noting that while teachers are being held down, Young has continued to grant other county employees annual raises. That’s what I mean about Young’s hostility to teachers and, therefore, to our children’s futures. He explicitly makes teachers second-class employees.
And what about the administrators? Is there fat at the top?
Our system’s administrative expenditure ranks dead last among all Maryland districts in cost per student. In other words, our children may have the most poorly managed schools in Maryland. Or the most overworked administrators.
Has the quality of our schools deteriorated?
It’s hard for me to believe that our schools are not slipping, but I have not found documentation for that. Frederick County schools score modestly well by the usual measures. For example, in The Washington Post’s latest “Challenge Index” scoring of Maryland’s 124 high schools, our best ranks 29th and the others range from 37th to 106th. By comparison, 11 of the Post’s top 12 are in Montgomery County.
Businesses that demand an educated workforce or whose educated employees want their kids to go to excellent schools may no longer find Frederick County attractive.