Maryland School Superintendent David W. Hornbeck, citing the need to combat a serious teacher shortage projected for the state, yesterday proposed a $562 million, five-year state aid package to raise teacher salaries 25 percent.
The proposal also calls for $394 million in contributions from the state's 24 local school districts and is designed to equalize salaries among those systems by distributing more money to the poorer and more populous areas.
Under the plan, Baltimore City, for example, would move to the top of the list with a starting salary of $23,846.
In Prince George's County, starting salaries would grow from $15,738 to $23,165, and in Montgomery from $16,573 to $23,506, under the proposal.
The ambitious proposal, however, must ultimately be put before the General Assembly, where legislative leaders already have said this year that funding will be scarce for new programs because of the cost of the state's savings and loan crisis and other fiscal headaches.
In announcing his proposal -- which includes $118 million for pay incentives that could include such controversial programs as merit pay -- Hornbeck said he wanted to inject educational issues into Maryland's upcoming elections.
"This is one of, if not the, key educational questions confronting the next governor," Hornbeck said.
". . . The fact is, absent a fundamental change in teacher salaries, all of the other initiatives we might pursue . . . will not meet the challenge we face," he added.
State education officials recently predicted that Maryland, which now employs about 38,000 teachers, would need more than 9,000 new teachers by 1987 because of growing enrollment and the attrition of teachers. But during that same period, the state expects to graduate only 3,150 new teachers.
The shortage is largely due, officials have said, to low teacher salaries.
The state now ranks eighth nationally for average teacher pay, according to education officials.
"We're getting closer and closer to where the best and brightest of our young people just won't come into teaching," Hornbeck said.
Hornbeck presented the package to the state Board of Education, whose members said they supported the proposal, but would deal with it in detail at their February meeting.
Hornbeck said it is highly unlikely that his proposal would go before legislators this session.
The aid package would eventually funnel $24.5 million in state aid to Prince George's County and $6.6 million to Montgomery County.
Reaction to the proposal, which is similar in scope to the $616 million education aid package approved by the 1984 General Assembly, was mixed.
"It does not have a chance," said Sen. Laurence Levitan (D-Montgomery), a member of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.
"We just don't have the money for that kind of program without some kind of major tax increase . . . . The state's not going to fund it."
Beverly Corelle Stonestreet, president of the Maryland State Teachers Association, said she supported the salary increase, but was leery about the provision that would provide pay incentives, a concept most teacher unions have opposed.
"It's encouraging to see a proposal such as this," she said, but added, " . . . The first fear is that people will ignore the need for a base salary increase" and opt instead for cheaper pay incentives.
Hornbeck said the local districts could opt for and design the incentive provision, but the state would contribute funds for programs that might include merit pay, a master-teacher system or bonuses to draw teachers to specific schools or subject areas.
Funds for the salary increases would be distributed according to the existing state aid formula, under which poorer and larger districts receive more than other systems.
Hornbeck said his proposed salary increases were designed to restore the purchasing power teachers have lost since 1970 because their salaries have not kept up with inflation.
"Somebody has to get off the dime on this," Hornbeck said.
"It is an effort to begin a movement for doing something rather than just talking about the need for salary increases."