Educators in the Maryland suburbs have reached a tentative deal with the Prince George’s County school system to provide wage increases to system employees, including millions of dollars in raises that were missed after the Great Recession.
Interim Prince George’s schools chief Monica Goldson said the contract would provide nearly $124 million in pay increases for 10,500 school employees over three years, about $39 million of which would go toward restoring raises missed because of the recession.
The contract must be approved by county officials and ratified by union members.
Goldson said Thursday that the compensation will allow teachers to remain focused on their students and will help keep the educators in the school system.
“We’re doing our best to make sure we retain our very best and brightest,” said Goldson, who has said the raises would come from cuts to central-office spending in the first year, while money for the second and third years could require program cuts.
PGCEA President Theresa Dudley lauded the schools chief.
“It is a step away from the institutional neglect that educators have felt in Prince George’s County,” Dudley said. “She’s our hero because she’s changing the whole dynamic of how people feel.”
Under the plan, employees who lost raises because of the recession would receive a nearly 25 percent pay increase over the next three years, according to the school system. Newer employees who did not work in the school system during the recession would receive a 13 percent increase over three years.
Teachers in the county have received yearly raises since 2013, but the previous county executive, Rushern L. Baker III (D), and his schools chief, Kevin M. Maxwell, said the county could not afford to restore increases skipped from 2010 through 2012.
The union has fought for the raises in town hall meetings on the county budget, sporting red union T-shirts and wielding signs charting their missed wages. Educators pleaded for more funding for raises at a County Council hearing that fell on National Teacher Appreciation Day.
Since March, the union has opened bargaining sessions to all 10,000 members and the community — a departure from negotiations that usually take place behind closed doors, Dudley said.
Prince George’s educators have long argued that because their pay lags behind neighboring school systems, it is difficult to recruit or retain teachers. Dudley said Thursday that teachers in the county have defected to surrounding jurisdictions seeking higher pay.
The average yearly salary for a Prince George’s teacher was $69,439 in 2018, compared with $81,791 in neighboring Montgomery County, according to a report by the Washington Area Boards of Education. Average pay is $72,734 in Virginia’s Fairfax County and $67,241 in Loudoun County.
The contract is also expected to include smaller class sizes, plans to address bullying and harassment, and assurances that special-education teachers have sufficient time to work with students.