How to Hire More Teachers Without Increasing the Budget
By Richard Fidler
Montgomery County’s operating budget is about $5 billion with half of that going to Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS). And about 90% of the MCPS budget is personnel costs – salaries and benefits.
On one side, there is always the cry that we need more teachers and smaller class size and the response is always that the current budget can’t sustain it.
However, there is a way to hire hundreds of additional teachers without increasing the budget in the slightest. Here’s how:
- The average teacher costs MCPS over $100K annually in salary and benefits. MCPS employees are scheduled to get a 2 percent cost of living allowance (COLA) this year. By contrast, the employees of the high-performing Fairfax (Va.) County school system will be getting a 1% increase. If MCPS teachers got a 1% increase instead of 2%, the savings of $16 million would allow MCPS to hire another 160 teachers.
- MCPS is the only school system in the state that gives its employees a supplement to their pension premium. Like all school systems in the state, MCPS puts 7% of an employee’s gross salary into the employee pension fund. However, MCPS kicks in an additional 2% — at a cost to taxpayers of $56.3 million. Eliminating that 2% supplement would allow the county to hire 560 more teachers.
- Although the County Council has talked about our being “One Montgomery,” meaning that all employees paid with taxpayer funds – teachers, firefighters, social workers, payroll clerks, etc.—should be treated equally, such is not the case when it comes to health insurance premiums. While police, firefighters and others pay 25% of their health insurance premium (which runs about $14k), the better paid teachers pay no more than 15%. In each case the remainder of the premium is paid by the county. If the teachers paid the same percentage as the police and firefighters, the saving to the county would be $15 million – enough to hire another 150 new teachers.
The savings in these categories would give MCPS hundreds of additional teachers at no extra cost to taxpayers.
Where would you rather have your tax dollars going: To increase the salaries and benefits of current teachers? Or to the hiring of nearly a thousand new teachers to close the achievement gap? It’s up to you.