Montgomery County School Superintendent Wilmer S. Cody said yesterday he will ask the school board to cut by 50 percent proposed improvements in next year's operating budget so the school system can raise teachers' salaries next year.
Cody, speaking at a luncheon in Olney before the Montgomery County Press Association, said the County Council "has placed the school system in a difficult half-win situation" of having to choose between raising teachers' salaries or spending $10 million to reduce class sizes and to add more kindergarten classes and elementary school counselors.
The council originally agreed to spend only $2.5 million of $7.3 million that the school board requested for teachers' salary raises. The council later voted to allow the board to spend more for teachers' wages, but only if other items were trimmed from the school system budget.
Cody said he will recommend that the board approve increasing beginning teachers' salaries to $19,000 and raising pay for veteran teachers by 6 percent because "there is no question our salaries need to be improved for the good of the school system."
Without the pay raise, beginning teachers would earn $17,100 next year, one of the lowest salary levels in the Washington area.
Mark Simon, president of the Montgomery County Education Association, the union that represents 6,400 county teachers, said Cody's decision "was the only way to go." Union members last week ratified their new contract by an overwhelming majority.
Cody said 194 instructional positions would have to be cut to fund the teacher raises. He also said he will ask the County Council for a special appropriation of $408,000 to restore some funds cut from special education programs.