In the last five years, the student body of Howard County's schools has nearly doubled. But salaries for the five elected representatives on the Board of Education have barely budged.
So last week, the board voted unanimously to support a bill to increase its annual pay--from $12,000 to $14,000 for the chairman and from $9,900 to $12,000 for other members.
Board members also are endorsing a proposal by the county's legislative delegation to set up a salary review commission to evaluate the board's pay periodically. Now there is no such review. When members want more money, they have to ask for it.
"It's not the right position to put people in," said board member Stephen C. Bounds.
The annual salary for Board of Education members was $6,000 for many years. After members asked that the amount be doubled, it was raised to $9,000 in 1994. Soon after, it was increased to $9,900.
Board members think the workload has increased significantly more than their salaries. Not only is the school system gaining more than 1,000 students each year, but also, as Bounds put it, society is becoming "far more litigious"--so the board has to spend much more time hearing legal and disciplinary appeals from students and teachers.
"Those have increased dramatically even since I began on the board," said Bounds, a lawyer who has served on the board since 1994.
He estimates that board work consumes at least 20 hours a week.