Teacher Wants Due Raise To Afford Home: Uber-Rich County Exec Schuh Says “Couple Up,” Stop Asking Him to Throw Her a “Bone”

Schuh's response to the author's comment about inadequacy of teacher salaries to afford decent housing: you can't go "straight to Chartwell", the upscale housing development pictured here. Screenshot by Carol Cox

Anne Arundel residents (and teachers), I’d like to let you know how my conversation with our County Executive Steve Schuh went Tuesday evening at the Town Hall at Glen Burnie High School.

I left feeling shocked, shamed, dismissed, and belittled.

I sat down at a table with him and four other Anne Arundel County Public Schools educators. I’m really not great with numbers, and I don’t like to speak on anyone else’s behalf, so I shared with him my own experience with my pay.

When I was hired, I signed a contract saying that I would get a step increase every year for many years. Then the recession hit and steps were frozen. I’m on step 6 but should be on step 10. Not only did I lose those four steps in and of themselves, I lost their CUMULATIVE value. The (lowball) estimate of what I’ve lost out on is at least $50,000.

I wanted to explain to him, when we (teachers) are asking for a makeup step, it’s really because it has drastically changed how we expected our lives to look. I’ve told him in the past that for me, it has meant the difference between a new car, starting a family, and a single family home with a yard and I don’t even (luckily) have student loans! On Tuesday, I decided to just focus on the home aspect and said that I had really thought that with a partner, I’d be able to afford a decent home in the county, but that’s really not the case.

He decided to crunch the numbers (after he asked what my partner does for a living and how much he makes) and tell me that my boyfriend and I would be able to afford about a $330,000 house and the good news is that’s about the median value of the houses in Anne Arundel County. I explained again those areas were really out of my reach, even with the added income from my partner.

He then said something to the effect of it’s good to “couple up.” I also explained that I really wanted to live in a “good/nice neighborhood” and he scoffed at me saying that “not everyone can have their dream home” and something or other about a starter home and that I couldn’t go “straight to Chartwell (in Severna Park).”

I tried to explain I’m not talking about a dream home, I’m talking about a home with a decent neighborhood, at which point another colleague sitting with us thankfully jumped in and asked him if he had seen the homes in areas of the county that would be closer to my price range. Schuh didn’t have a response.

I don’t even know how to put into words how just plain rude he was to me. Not only is Chartwell totally not on my radar, I know what we can afford and I’m well aware that Chartwell is FAR beyond what I could EVER afford. See picture. Thank you Mr. Schuh for putting me in my place.

How dare I ask for some kind of compensatory increase to put a nick in the money that I had counted on. Never mind that I have two degrees, am national board certified, taught in Title I schools for 9.5 years (and was eventually denied stipends for working in those challenging communities), am a county resident, and grew up here.

He was totally defensive the whole time and shushed me at one point when I tried to clarify the parts of my story he was skewing…even though he talked over everyone at the table consistently.

To him it was laughable and absurd that I was asking for any kind of mak-up step. I acknowledged it would be absurd to ask for all the steps back because that’s just not realistically possible, and emphatically said we were just looking for him to throw us a bone. He continued to dismiss that comment and did not acknowledge that we are pinned financially. I effectively felt like I had begged and still was completely unheard.

Schuh will never have my vote. I gave him the benefit of the doubt for a long time and have had cordial conversations about the same topics before. It’s good to see his true colors come out and I hope that you’ll consider this Town Hall experience when you go to vote later this year.

Carol Cox is an Anne Arundel County resident and public school teacher.

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