By 1:00 PM on Thursday, 860 Anne Arundel County teachers, who on average make over $5,000 less than other Maryland county teachers, had signed a petition asking County Executive Steve Schuh to back off his discount food deal and give teachers the pay increases that they have coming to them.
According to Richard Benfer of the Teacher’s Association of Anne Arundel County, teachers are contractually guaranteed an annual “step” increase. When the economy tanked back in 2009, Anne Arundel County teachers agreed to forego their raises for the time being, to be made up when the economy came back on track.
“So when we did that, that there was the understanding that we would work to restore what was lost over a 3 year period,” says Benfer. “That did not happen because the County did not provide the funds.” Benfer says the pay differential between Anne Arundel County teachers is getting worse and worse, and our schools may soon be losing teachers to other counties. “I could go to Montgomery County and make $26,000 more than in Anne Arundel County, he says. “I would not be worried about paying my electric bill. I could save for my Children’s college education. I could prepare to buy a house.”
Benfer said County teachers had a severe case of collective indigestion on Monday when they received an invite over official email from the Board of Education for a free buffet and 30% discount food in multi-millionaire County Executive’s three Green Turtle restaurants.
The Association decided that in order to communicate to Schuh how tasteless they felt the offer was since they are still waiting on back pay, Benfer started a petition.
The petition language is here:
ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY EXECUTIVE STEVE SCHUH
On Monday, teachers were invited to come spend our hard-earned money in restaurants owned by County Executive Schuh. He hasn’t offered a plan for us to catch up on the five and a half steps that we’re behind because he is apparently more focused on getting us into his businesses so he can sell us discounted burgers.
Here’s the thing: we work for our students and for fair, decent pay, not for Happy Hour specials at the County Executive’s restaurants. We’re here to make a difference for the students in our classrooms and to support our families, not to boost profits at the County Executive’s businesses. We call on our County Executive to support adequate, competitive salaries for teachers rather than trying to get us into his restaurants.
SPONSORED BY, TEACHERS ASSOCIATION OF ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY
To: Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh
From: (Teacher Name Here)
Instead of holding a disingenuous “teacher appreciation night” at his restaurants, we are calling on County Executive Schuh to show his appreciation for teachers by: • working with us to develop a plan for how teachers can catch up on the five and half steps that we have dropped behind. • Committing to meaningfully raising the average salaries of Anne Arundel County teachers so we are no longer in our current position of being $5,100 below the average statewide teacher salary. We are losing teachers to other counties and professions because of the lack of commitment to Anne Arundel County teachers. • Funding our schools above the bare minimum so that every Anne Arundel teacher and student has a great, adequately funded public school to go to everyday.
Burger-Gate, Benfer said, was the straw that broke the camel’s back. “In the first hour, we had 100 people who signed it,” he says. “For the most part every comment has been, ‘Enough is enough.'” Benfer also said that teachers love free food and discounts, just “not at Steve Schuh’s restaurants.”
Vicky Bruce is an author and filmmaker from Anne Arundel County.
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