- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 8, 2002

Some members of Prince George's County's newly appointed school board are asking teachers to consider cutting their pay increases, which are being negotiated, to help close a budget deficit and reduce class sizes.
The suggestion was offered by Dean Sirjue and backed by Judy Mickens-Murray at Thursday night's board meeting and comes as former Superintendent Iris T. Metts, the panel's chief executive officer, is slated for an 8 percent pay raise that would increase her annual salary from $196,000 to $212,000.
The proposal provoked an uproar at the meeting and raised concerns about teacher recruitment and retention in a county that already pays its teachers less than nearby suburban districts pay theirs.
A teacher with 10 years' experience in Prince George's County makes $43,580, compared with $47,025 in Montgomery County and $48,112 in Fairfax County.
The Prince George's school board, which took office last week, is trying to address a $52 million shortfall in the school system's $1.14 billion budget. To balance the budget, Mrs. Metts has proposed making cuts in several departments and removing teacher positions in comprehensive schools. Critics say the move would increase class sizes to as many as 36 students in some grades.
Two years ago, county teachers received a 5 percent pay increase that expires in the upcoming school year. Since last month, the county teachers' union has been negotiating a pay increase for the 2003-2004 school year, said union chief Celeste Williams.
Teachers would react "very badly" to the proposal, she said.
"It shows a disrespect for the profession," Miss Williams said. "A lot of teachers who have been here and hung in here do not need this."
Negotiations are expected to end this month.
Mrs. Mickens-Murray said she believes all employees should consider cuts in salary increases.
"I am asking teachers, 'If you have to make a choice, could you live with a little less in the beginning and more later?'" she said, adding that reducing class sizes is a priority.
Other board members, like Vice President Howard Stone, said cutting teacher-pay increases "won't fly."
Mrs. Metts said after the meeting she was "a little concerned" about the proposal.
"We want our teachers to feel secure," she said.
Mrs. Metts has proposed budget cuts totaling $37 million. The remaining $15 million, she said, would come from central and regional offices.
The school-system CEO said she is not looking to make any cuts in schools or school staff right now. "I would look to other areas first," Mrs. Metts said.

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