Teachers often try to suppress rebellion in their students, but in two Maryland counties it is they who are fighting authority this time.
Pickets were out in Frederick and Anne Arundel yesterday as teachers protested salary increases they say are too small. Teachers in those counties also have initiated other job actions that in some cases have already resulted in teachers boycotting graduations and proms and have ended many extra-curricular activities.
Anne Arundel teachers voted Wednesday night to begin their own job action to protest a pay raise lower than they requested. Meanwhile yesterday, Frederick County teachers continued their job action begun last month by staging an after-school rally in front of the county commissioners' office.
In both counties, teachers say they will report to school when classes begin and leave when classes are over. They will not help students before or after school or take part in other unpaid extra-curricular activities that are not spelled out in their contracts.
In both counties, teachers had negotiated an 8 percent wage increase but were given 6 percent raises by county officials. Officials in these fast-growing counties have said, however, that they cannot grant teachers bigger raises because pressures for more roads, new schools and other needs associated with sharp growth and urbanization are consuming their budgets.
"When I first came here eight years ago, the salaries were competitive," said Paul Vandenberg, a social studies teacher at Southern Senior High School in Anne Arundel. "But we've been constantly falling behind what other counties have been giving their teachers."
With eight years' experience and a master's degree, Vandenberg, 32, said he is making slightly more than $26,000 a year and is scouting around for better-paying teaching jobs.
Teachers in the two counties are among the lowest paid in the Washington and Baltimore areas. With a 6 percent pay increase, teachers in Anne Arundel will make a maximum of $37,700 after 30 years on the job, and those in Frederick will make a maximum of $31,715, after 22 years on the job.
Teachers have fared better in other Maryland suburbs. In Howard, they successfully negotiated an 8 percent pay raise, and in Montgomery they negotiated a 9.5 percent pay raise. Teachers in Prince George's, who are in the middle of a three-year contract, will also get an 8 percent pay raise this year.
Teachers in Howard will earn a maximum of $39,618 next year, compared with $42,951 for Montgomery teachers and $38,016 for teachers in Prince George's.
Charles E. Wilkerson, an English teacher at Old Mill Senior High School in Anne Arundel who has a master's degree and 25 years' experience, said he earns $33,000 a year. He said he and several other teachers intended to boycott County Executive O. James Lighthizer's appearance at the graduation ceremonies last night to protest what they considered an insufficient pay raise.
Wilkerson, head of his school's English department, said he has had to work an assortment of part-time jobs, such as waiting tables and teaching at the county police academy. "I love teaching, but it seems like our county executive has just given lip service to education and its importance," he said. "We can't keep attracting good teachers and keep good teachers on these salaries."
Anne Arundel School Superintendent Robert C. Rice, who has supported the 8 percent raise, said school officials are looking for ways to give teachers more money. But he said the budget is "so lean" that he doubts it can be done.
"If somebody finds a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow or a nice big lottery ticket, we'd be happy to give it to the teachers," Rice said. "We're looking, but it's going to be practically impossible for us to come up with that kind of money."
Rice said the teachers' job action will be felt particularly hard because there are more extra-curricular activities in the closing days of the school year. On the other hand, he said, it will cease to be a problem when school ends June 18.
Students in Frederick and Anne Arundel have supported their teachers' demands for higher pay. At Southern High in Anne Arundel yesterday morning, several students held placards with their teachers. In Frederick, more than 200 students walked out of classes last week to protest the pay raise and they were suspended from school for one day as a result.
Vandenberg said the work-to-rule has drawn wide support from the 60 teachers at his school. On the first day of the job action Tuesday, he said, 54 teachers demonstrated after classes and the remaining six had to leave for part-time jobs.