2020 | Government

Proposed raise for school board members cut from 140% to 40%

State delegates scale back proposal; current salary is $25K

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The Montgomery County House delegation has cut a commission’s proposal to more than double the local school board members’ salaries.

The delegation on Friday voted unanimously to move forward with a bill that would raise school board members’ salaries, but with a much lower increase. Salaries would increase from $25,000 to $35,000 under the amended version supported by the delegation.

In December, a commission created by the state legislature recommended salaries be raised to $60,000, a 140% increase from the current level.

Del. Pam Queen told the delegation on Friday that the last time school board members received a raise was in 2014. At that time, compensation increased from $18,500 to $25,000, a roughly 35% increase.

“We looked at numbers more comparable to what was done before,” Queen said, referring to the percentage increase.

The delegation also compared compensation with other jurisdictions, including Fairfax County Public Schools, where school board members earn $32,000 per year.

During the 2018 Maryland General Assembly session, lawmakers passed a bill authorizing a commission to study compensation for Montgomery County school board members. The bill, sponsored by Del. Eric Luedkte, a Democrat from Burtonsville, says the salary panel will revisit board salaries every four years.

The local commission’s chair, Jaye Espy, said in December that the group felt the $60,000 recommendation was fair based on the amount of work school board members do each week.

“The commission believes that the current salary level is not reflective of the time and effort needed for a board member to fulfil their duties and responsibilities, nor of the type of work the board is called on to do,” Espy said at the time.

Each current school board member has voiced support for increasing salaries, citing a full-time, year-round workload, the responsibility of managing a $2.68 billion budget and the need to attend several public events each week.

The student board member, elected by middle and high school students from across the county, currently receives a $5,000 college scholarship, Student Service Learning hours, and one honors-level social studies credit.

The delegation on Friday voted to have the bill give the student member a $25,000 college scholarship and a $10,000 stipend.

If the bill passes during this year’s legislative session, the new salaries would be implemented in increments.

Del. Kathleen Dumais, a Democrat from Germantown, argued that the student position is meant to be a learning experience, not a job, so $35,000 is “a lot of money.”

“I’m not going to stand in the way, but … I never thought [this] was supposed to be an experience they were supposed to be compensated for,” Dumais said. “I’m looking for opportunities for young people, but this is a lot of money when this was sort of an educational opportunity for our students to be involved in the process.”

Del. Kumar Barve, a Democrat from Rockville, argued, however, that the student member does as much work as the adult members and should be compensated fairly.

The delegation added an amendment to the bill that would allow the student members to decide the percentage of the $35,000 they’d like to receive in scholarships and stipends. The goal, they said, is to ensure students who don’t go to college or get a full-ride scholarship receive equal compensation.

The student could not receive 100% of the amount in a stipend, according to the delegation, but could have a split of 99% stipend and 1% scholarship, “so a functional 100%,” delegates said.

“If it were up to me, I’d just give them $35,000 and let them decide how to spend it,” Barve said.

With the delegation backing the bill in its amended form, it moves to the full House for consideration.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com