On October 21, 2015 the Anne Arundel County Board of Education approved the negotiated contract between AACPS and TAAAC (the Teachers Union). The contract is a major hit for our schools. There are two causes for the problem. The primary is the artificial revenue shortage caused by the County Executive’s tax cut. The second is the deal that TAAAC made with the Devil, funding additional across the board pay increases at the expense for stipends for the one-third of our teachers in “challenge schools”. This is a direct assault to the passionate teachers in those schools who will receive a substantial pay cut and an affront to the concept of closing the Achievement Gap.
Below is my letter to the County Executive with copy to the County Council:
Dear County Executive Schuh,
I am writing to let you know my anger as a taxpayer and a tireless supporter of public schools in the Annapolis Cluster (PTSA leader and former AEC member) at the decisions that have led us to the completely unacceptable Teacher Contract.
The tax cut that your administration implemented in the FY16 budget has caused a self-imposed “financial difficulty” that will have a devastating impact on Anne Arundel County schools, specifically but not limited to Annapolis High School and all the other schools who work tirelessly to reduce the Achievement Gap and turn failing schools into excellent schools. The $19 million tax cut in the FY16 budget would have funded the overdue step increases plus challenge school stipends with some leftover to provide more revenue to our county public safety officers and county support personnel.
Being close to the school, I believe there will be a mass exodus of highly effective and passionate teachers from Annapolis High and other AACPS schools if we do not do something immediately to give them some expectation that they will have their pay restored. It was an absolute kick in the gut to these dedicated professionals that we thank them for their excellent work with a $2-10,000 per year pay cut! Parents are furious that the teachers we love are being treated so callously.
I understand that there is culpability on the part of TAAAC and I will direct some of my anger there as well, but I have been a small but growing voice in our community that believes if we want to compete with our neighboring counties for excellent schools and economic development, we have to provide the tax base necessary to provide those excellent services. We currently spend less than any surrounding county on our public school students and $2,000 PER STUDENT less than Howard and Montgomery Counties. The average salary in the mid-range is $12,000 less than Montgomery Co and $6,000 less than Howard. Is it a wonder that our best teachers are leaving our county?
I read your budget summary, so I am aware of your perceived political “mandate” to lower taxes. The idea that AACo is somehow over-taxed is one of those long-standing Urban Legends that we must dispel. We have the 22nd lowest income tax rate and the 19th lowest property tax rate in the state. Your argument that AACo has the 9th largest “tax burden”, only proves the point since we are the 3rd wealthiest county county in the state per capita. If we were taxed appropriately, we would have the 3rd highest tax burden. If that tax burden has been increasing, it only shows how far back our under-funding goes.
In next year’s budget, I urge you to move from being an expedient politician to being a true leader by recognizing the need to bring more revenue into the county to support needed county services, whether by income tax adjustment, tax cap adjustment or some other means of revenue. Educate citizens what their tax dollars are funding and I truly believe they will support the increase. Even the most ardent Tea Party follower believes that schools should be controlled locally and that government should provide public safety. Since that is all that County Government does, county residents should be willing to pay for it.
AHS PTSA Vice President