- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 10, 2004

BALTIMORE (AP) — Mayor Martin O’Malley, hoping to avert sweeping layoffs, asked teachers yesterday to accept a 3.5 percent pay cut for the rest of the year with the promise that the money will be repaid at some time in the near future.

The mayor’s proposal nearly cuts in half the amount of the pay cut that teachers rejected Friday. The city, meanwhile, will give the school system the other half of the money needed to trim the deficit, the mayor said at a noon press conference.

On Friday, teachers rejected two cost-saving proposals that schools chief Bonnie Copeland said were necessary to save more than a thousand jobs. More than 4,000 city teachers braved freezing rain and traffic jams to vote.

Miss Copeland has warned that she would be forced to lay off 1,200 employees — most of them teachers — if the union refused to accept eight days unpaid furlough or a 6 percent to 7 percent pay cut through June 30, with an offer to pay them back in 2005.

Of the 4,257 teachers who voted, 1,582 chose to take the furlough, 503 voted to take the pay cut, 2,161 voted for “none of the above” and 11 ballots were invalid.

Miss Copeland said that she was disappointed after the vote and that her office would review its options and try to devise recommendations in time for a school board meeting yesterday.

Miss Copeland was scheduled to present the third phase of her cost-containment measures to the school board last night. She had said she was prepared to recommend the layoffs after teachers rejected the earlier offers.

City principals, administrators and staff agreed to an eight-day furlough last week as part of the cost-saving measures.

The school system faces a $58 million deficit, and Miss Copeland said she is committed to cutting $16 million from the budget through the end of June.

It was uncertain whether teachers would accept the new proposal, said a spokeswoman with the union.

“I don’t know if they’re willing to bend,” said Carla Tyler, a spokeswoman with the Baltimore Teachers Union, which represents nearly all the system’s 7,000 teachers. “I’m still hearing that they’re angry and frustrated, and they no longer trust the system to keep its promises.”

Vanessa Pyatt, a spokeswoman with the school system, said teachers lacking certification — either because they were new teachers on provisional status or were experienced teachers who had let their certification lapse — would be laid off first.

The next determination would be based on seniority, said Miss Pyatt, followed by resource teachers such as those specializing in art, music, and librarians.

“The goal is to keep basic instruction going as much as possible,” Miss Pyatt said.

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