Big pay hikes for teachers proposed, along with a career ladder

Big pay hikes for teachers proposed, along with a career ladder

A meeting of the Maryland Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, chaired by former university chancellor Brit Kirwan. photo

By Len Lazarick

Big increases in teacher salaries along with the creation of statewide career ladder that would put teachers in line with other “high-status professions” are among the key recommendations a statewide commission on school funding will make to the legislature this year.

The Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, charged with looking at a wide range of education issues, will also recommend teams of teachers be given greater autonomy and spend less time in the classroom and more time collaborating on teaching strategies.

The Kirwan commission, nicknamed for its chairman, former university chancellor Brit Kirwan, reached broad but tentative consensus on these and other changes in how teachers are recruited, paid and deployed at its meeting Thursday in Annapolis.

The commission made no attempt to estimate how much the changes would cost, but they recognized that there would be a hefty price tag that would have to be calculated in coming months.

The changes are an attempt to deal with a sharp drop in the number of students studying to be teachers at Maryland’s universities. Sixty percent of teachers in Maryland K-12 schools come from out of state. Half of new teachers leave the profession in the first five years.

“Current salary levels combined with working condition are having a negative impact on recruitment and retention of teachers,” the revised draft report says. (The commission made some minor changes in the revised draft and shifted some paragraphs, but the basic recommendations, the second document in this PDF file, are intact.)

Major policy shift

Big pay hikes and creation of a career ladder leading to the position of master teacher based on teaching performance and not academic credentials are an attempt to bring Maryland in line with best practices in high-performing school systems in other countries, particularly Shanghai and Singapore.

This would be a significant shift in policy for the state. “This is going to take a lot of work to explain to our members,” said Steve Hershkowitz, policy research specialist for Maryland State Education Association, the union representing over 70,000 educators.

The proposals would be implemented over a 10-year period, but closing the pay gap with high-status professions requiring comparable education, such as nurses, certified public accountants, engineers and architects would happen over the next four or five years.

Hard to pay for

Prospects were dim for actually paying for the policy changes without new taxes, based on a presentation by legislative budget analyst David Romans. It showed structural deficits recurring in a few years just based on existing programs for health and education. Because of existing entitlements and education aid formulas, state spending is rising faster than state revenues.

“There doesn’t appear we have an easy way to fund new initiatives,” Romans said.

The only representative of business on the commission, Scott Dorsey, chairman and CEO of Merritt Properties, agreed that the salary jumps were “necessary” to retain teachers, but “we need to think of ways to be creative. It’s not just about the money, it’s about innovation.”

There was intense debate over some of the particulars, and the commission has yet to work out many of the details.

David Steiner, a member who is director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy as well as a member of the State Board of Education, emphasized that the pay hikes need to be coupled with rigorous performance standards, as they are in the Washington, D.C. school system.

Chester Finn, another Hogan-appointed member of the state board and a long-time education policy expert, objected to a proposal about reducing class sizes, saying that there was no research to show that class size made much difference unless the number of students per class was very small.

About The Author

Len Lazarick

Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.


  1. D Wilburn

    You also have to look at insurance and retirement benefits. Insurance continues to decline and costs increase. Retirement in now a county funded, not state funded entity.

  2. D Wilburn

    The salary my county publishes for its teachers is the lowest. I have taught 20+ years in the state of Maryland. Our salaries have not seen a COLA for over 8 years. We also do not receive the salaries as scheduled for our years of service due to budget cuts. I am two steps behind. Mike– be sure you know what your counterparts actually make. What is advertised on county websites is not what the teachers actually make. It is a plan not a course of action.

  3. KopyKatKiller

    “High preforming schools like those in Shanghai”. You can’t be serious!?!?! Shanghai??? Srsly, Shanghai schools are absolute sh*t. Like 100 years our of date and produce nothing but mindless test taking drones. LOL Just LOL. Stop drinking the koolaid, quick!

  4. charlie hayward

    “Building Block #6: Redesign schools as places in which teachers will be treated as professionals….”
    Exactly who is treating teachers as sub-professionals? It’s as if they’re insulted by their pay and the State is the culprit.

  5. Dale McNamee

    Oh ! The annual pleading of the incompetents for more school funding and increased salaries to reward them for their execrable performance…

    I believe that there’s an inverse relationship between funding and school performance…

    The more money spent, the worse the results…

    And the teacher unions don’t help either…

  6. Mike

    I agree, unions are not a factor but teachers are hardly underpaid professionals.
    I am a state retiree with 40 years of service and can say that those in professional service in my department, at the bachelors, masters and PhD levels were paid far less than teachers, not only initially but through their entire careers.

    • Chelsea Hughes Smoot

      You’re delusional.

      • Mike

        About the likely hood of good governance from the Trump administration, yes. As for my comments, I had a long career in state service, the last 7 of which as a Section chief, my knowledge of education is derived in part from my son, a professor of education at a leading university.

  7. Mike

    Great. But like Thornton, the state has not the resources to implement. Also, there are many references in journals of education that class size is not a critical determinant in classroom effectiveness.

  8. Lisa Moore

    Finn is a horse’s butt! He’s just spewing his right wing, Fordham Institute nonsense. There are study after study indicating that smaller class sizes make a difference in student learning. They have no intention of getting rid of the miserable PARCC test and Common Core curriculum when they are pushing for rigorous performance standards (more inane tests!!!). They are getting ready to VAM teachers based on the test scores from a ridiculous, standardized test that even a well educated adult couldn’t pass. Wake up Marylander’s! This is to break the teachers union. Your children will be taught by unqualified teachers (TFAer’s) or placed in front of a computer screen for hours everyday with a “guide on the side” (not a real teacher). If education in Singapore and Shanghai is so great, why are asians flocking to America for education? Bust the teachers union and get unqualified teachers in the classroom teaching scripted lessons from the common core and the state saves a bunch of cash……but the saving on education costs will cost the state when all of those uneducated children don’t get into college and can’t get a job (WELFARE!).

    • David Taylor

      The best thing that could happen would be to break the teachers union. They are a major part of the problem with public education.

      • Lisa Moore

        explain….? Why is a union that protects the rights and working conditions of low paid professionals (teachers) so awful? You have sipped from the wrong batch of kool aid if you believe that the big, bad teachers union is the boogey man. Do you want unqualified person’s teaching your children in school? Do you want your children sitting in front of a computer screen all day? Do you want your children relentlessly over tested and data mined? Do you want your children getting a scripted curriculum instead of a true education? The union strives to keep real teachers in the classroom. Sure, there are a few teachers that shouldn’t be in a classroom, just like there are some architects that shouldn’t be drawing plans for buildings…..that’s a sad fact in any career, unionized or not. And NO…. I am not a teacher and have never been a teacher! I am a parent and I want an education for my children…not useless test prep.

        • David Taylor

          Unions exist to protect the lowest performing members and advocate for monetary rewards based on seniority, not ability or results. They oppose charter schools, oppose allowing subject matter experts from teaching without useless “Education” degrees and support dubious teaching theories and methods. They protect bad teachers and are shills for the Democrats. Their prime concern is for themselves, not students.

          • Lisa Moore

            Unions should advocate for pay raises based on seniority and merit (don’t you?). They should oppose Charter schools and their “teach to the test” cadre of TFAer’s and poor curriculum. They should object to subject matter experts in the classroom…..just because you know math doesn’t mean you know how to teach math to children. There are very few bad teachers…seriously!….but lots of bad curriculum that good teachers are FORCED to teach (dictated by those who have never set foot in a classroom!). And it all gets down to YOUR one main belief….that Democrats are evil and unions and democrats always side together. This is about education and not about politics. Believe me! There are enough dirty dealings going on with BOTH sides of the political aisle when it comes to that large pot of tax dollars to be used for the education of our children ($600 billion/and that’s just federal). The idea of a public education is to turn out well rounded, critically thinking, democratic minded individuals into the world….it’s not to train meat widgets for corporate America. Education should never be as narrow as a score of 1-5 on a standardized test of reading and math. ALL children are more than that and ALL children deserve a decent education provided by real, trained, human teachers.

          • David Taylor

            Unions care less about merit and more about seniority. That is a fact. Why are they afraid of Charter schools? Could it be that they don’t want any challenges to the monopoly of public schools and are afraid of a little competition? Education degrees are BS, subject matter experts will always be a superior option. Learning how to teach does not require a 4 year degree, it is more dependent on being the master of your subject. There are plenty of bad teachers, wake up. As you note (and I agree) the idea of education is to turn out well rounded, critically thinking individuals. That’s the last thing the education establishment and teachers unions want. Public schools have turned into government indoctrination camps. What you want will never be achieved with the way public education is presently constructed.

          • James Arthur

            It does require training to effectively teach to 20+ students at one time. The union supports specialization (subject matter experts) but they have to know how to to teach. If you just throw a math stat in a room with 20 kids they will have now clue how to manage or modify the lesson plan for the 10 504 plans, and 10 IEPs, and the 5 co-taught students.

            Mastering your subject is far different from mastering your subject and being able to teach the subject.

          • Anthony Coolidge

            Having worked in industry as a scientist for 6 years then transitioning into teaching I feel I’ve gained experience and knowledge from both sides of the coin.

            Yes subject matter counts as a teacher, you need to know what you’re teaching. I can tell you though, what makes a great teacher is not how well you know the content but how well you form relationships with the class and manage students. As a scientist, I was slightly terrified about the prospect of managing 25 kids. It’s been a steep learning curve. Psychology is perhaps the most important thing you need to develop as a teacher. I’ve heard many people mention that teaching is 10% content 90% management. Time in the classroom has proved this to me.

            David I thought like you and many others that teachers were ‘over-inflated’ in their profession, not as important as they made themselves out to be. Again, time in the classroom has shown me that teachers are a special breed and may explain why so many drop out of the profession after 5 years. I’m not from the US but my partner is. We have considered working there so that my partner can spend more time with her family. However, as teachers, we would take a massive pay cut if we did and take-on a lot more stress.

            To be honest I don’t know why anyone would enroll into teaching in the US, the way teachers are treated in your country compared to Europe, Australia and even Asia is terrible, and I feel very sorry for the dedicated professionals over there. The pay, the politics and the treatment, of my US teaching partner was dismal. I doubt she would have continued teaching if she stayed in the US.

            Unfortunately, it looks like you guys are setting up to go down the path of online teaching with an unqualified ‘aids’ to manage students as a solution to the teacher shortage, rather than offer incentives to get college students studying teaching. It really does spell the demise of a great nation.

            Parents throughout Asia, Europe and Australia value education, and America is likely to be left behind as the world, especially Asian students, continue to advance academically and build businesses that are out-competing the US on all-levels.

            As much as I’d like to teach in the US for a few years with my partner, unless conditions change, then it simply is not an option for us. I think prospective teachers in the US should look at career alternatives unless they see significant changes in conditions and pay. The stress that my partner was under was just not worth it.

            When I think of America I like to think of the Back to The Future movie, number 1 set in the 60s and 80s the hey-days. Unfortunately the movie seems right on point – it projected into 2015 (movie number 2) and the country had gone out of control with capitalist -focused Biff (aka Trump) taking control. Someone needs to get the time machine going and change those set of events! Off-topic but it all relates in a way. Intense capitalism is really making America less relevant for the rest of the world.

          • Lisa Moore

            Do you not read the news to know that Charter schools are NOT public schools, but private institutions collecting tax dollars without community oversight? Do you not hear of the weekly scandals involving the management of these charter schools egregiously profiting from those tax dollars that are supposed to be used for educating children? The billions of tax dollars fleeced by Charter schools is incredible. Charter schools get to “cream the crop”….they don’t have to accept every child. Charter schools can deny services. Charter schools don’t have to take children with learning disabilities. Charter schools don’t have to take ESL children. Charter schools are not governed by community school boards. Sorry, but I want a teacher, an education professional , teaching my children and I think they should be paid a fair wage to do their job. If you think that schools have been turned into government indoctrination camps, I would think that you would like the teachers having a union protecting their rights and the rights of your children, too. Sad thing is….you probably don’t have children in the school system, but you feel the need to condemn something you know nothing about.

          • David Taylor

            I had a child in the public school system and he was fortunate to go to excellent schools. But that’s the exception, not the rule. All we have done for the last 50 years is throw more money at public schools and there has been an inverse relationship between funding increases and student performance in many, many school systems. Public schools refuse to adequately discipline students and spend way too much time teaching irrelevant subjects, ignoring basic grammar, history and mathematics. Unions opposed Governor Hogan’s mandate to start school after Labor Day because they might lose some of their precious perks, like being able to attend the MSTA convention on the taxpayers dollar. By the way, teachers unions are part and parcel of government indoctrination. Protecting the rights of children? What are you smoking?

          • Lisa Moore

            Ignoring basic grammar and mathematics?…. you are kinda right on that one, except the only thing they ARE teaching in schools now is ELA and Math….because those are the subjects “tested” . Problem is that the Common Core standards were written so poorly that the curriculum being taught now doesn’t resemble English or good math and that is truly bad for ALL children. The CC standards had no input from teachers , psychologists or anyone else with knowledge of how children learn or think. Teachers don’t like teaching CC, but they are mandated to teach it and then people like you, like to blame the teachers. Can you see the cycle now or has the Kool Aid fogged your mind? You bit the worm, my man and you have been taken hook, line and sinker. You can thank Bill Gates and the Clinton family for the Pandora’s box of bad education reforms in this country. There are a whole lot more rich folks having their hand in this whole matter, but I will leave it with the people whose face have been all over it for years. Want and Ignorance drives this whole mess.

          • David Taylor

            It doesn’t change the fact that unions protect bad teachers and there are plenty of them.

          • Chelsea Hughes Smoot

            Says the man who cannot master one subject. How about when you teach 6 subjects to 25, 6 year olds? Right….sit down, sir. You are delusional.

Support Our Work!

We depend on your support. A generous gift in any amount helps us continue to bring you this service.