Higher or lower: teachers’ wages


Graphic courtesy of the MCEA

Each year MCPS talks with the MCEA, the teacher’s union, to determine salaries.

By Nate Levine, Promotions Manager

What would we do without our teachers? That hypothetical could become a reality shortly, as MCPS is making it hard for teachers to maintain a consistent living situation. With the high cost of living in Montgomery County (MoCo), many teachers are struggling to make ends meet. 

The current teacher pay system raises questions about fairness and opportunities for salary advancement. These questions are an essential part of a path toward fair teacher pay.

The question of what constitutes a fair salary for teachers is a complex issue that can be difficult to answer. Allison Deli is an English teacher at WCHS who has been subject to the lack of pay from MoCo schools. Deli does her best to approach the issue from an objective view. One common discussion point is whether or not there is an exact “fair salary” for teachers.

“This is too complicated to answer specifically, but teachers should be paid a Cost of Living increase each year that fits with the expense of living in MoCo,” Deli said.

It is safe to say that teachers should receive a Cost of Living increase each year that keeps pace with the increasing expenses of living in Montgomery County. The current pay system does include a Cost of Living increase each year, but it may not be enough to keep up with the rising cost of living in the area. 

“Many teachers cannot afford to live in MoCo,” Deli said. “Teachers should be paid a Cost of Living increase each year that fits with living expenses in MoCo.”

The fact that there are teachers who are living paycheck to paycheck in Montgomery County is ridiculous. In a county that is generally wealthy, it is embarrassing that this school system struggles to budge an inch when it comes to teacher salaries.

“Our salaries are comparable to Howard, Prince George’s County and DC,” Deli said. “We used to be a bit higher but I am not sure if this is still true.”

Luckily for the more experienced teachers, there are ways to increase their salary over time.

“Teachers move up a ladder (called Steps) based on years of service and each step pays a specific amount,” Deli said. “Teachers are also supposed to get a Cost of Living (the amount of money needed to cover basic expenses such as housing, food, taxes, and healthcare in a certain place and time period) increase each year.”

The base salaries of teachers don’t come through a simple process though. MCPS negotiates with the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA), the teacher’s union, each year to determine teacher salaries.

“We are in the middle of negotiating for next year and it is so far not going well,” Deli said. “MCPS is proposing NO Step increase for next year and a flat 3K increase to cover Cost of Living.”

This proposal has been met with resistance from the MCEA, which represents not only teachers but also other school-based professionals, such as social workers, counselors, and occupational and physical therapists.Thankfully for teachers, at least they get the bare minimum of retirement benefits and some healthcare benefits.

It’s not only the teachers’ salaries that need help though, there are many other people working in the school system that deserve more money. Sadly, they face the same troubles of negotiating with the MCSP. 

“Administrators and support staff negotiate with MCSP via their unions (MCCAP for admin & SEIU for support staff) and salaries are determined differently than with MCEA folks,” Deli said.

Montgomery County can make it challenging for teachers to make ends meet. It is crucial that the school district and the teacher’s union work together to find a solution that ensures teachers receive fair compensation for their hard work and dedication.