Montgomery County School Board, MCEA Reach Compromise

In 2016, the Montgomery County Board of Education and MCEA, the local teachers' union, reached a budget compromise that saved taxpayers money.

Do you remember that time in 2016 when the Montgomery County School Board and MCEA reached a rare compromise?

Good times.

Let’s remember the good times when compromise was still possible in American politics.

The Story Behind the memorable Montgomery County School Board and MCEA Budget Compromise

In April 2016, the Montgomery County Council rejected former Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett’s $100 million proposal to hike public workers’ wages.

If Leggett’s proposal passed in 2016, Montgomery County teachers would have seen an eight percent pay hike.

But the Montgomery County Council members weren’t on board with Leggett’s plan.

So what happened?

The Montgomery County Council rejects Ike Leggett’s pay hike plan  

The County County directed Mr. Leggett and the Montgomery County Board of Education to return to the drawing board.

In May 2016, former Montgomery County School Board president Michael Durso sent a letter to the Montgomery County Council.

What did Durso’s letter say? 

Duruso’s letter informed the County Council the school board was committed to slashing in half the proposed teacher pay hike.

Montgomery County Teacher Pay 

Who or what determines how much teachers are paid in Montgomery County? 

In Montgomery County, Md., the Montgomery County Council approves the Montgomery County Board of Education’s annual school budget.

The Montgomery County Council sets teachers’ pay in Montgomery County, not the Montgomery County Board of Education.

Does the Montgomery County County Council control how much the Montgomery County Board of Education spends each year? 

No.

The Montgomery County Council has no control over how the Montgomery County Board of Education spends its budget.

Who or what helps negotiate Montgomery County teacher pay increases? 

The Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA) negotiates teacher pay with the Montgomery County school board.

What did the Montgomery County Education Association Say? 

MCEA was pissed.

The Post reported that the “union members expressed anger not only about the reductions but their treatment at the council hearing,” the Post reported.

“Before the vote, former council member Marc Elrich (D-At Large) asked that the Council hear from present union leaders.”

Elrich was elected Montgomery County executive in 2018.

The Post reported the reductions “would free up $36 million to $37 million, which could reduce class size by an average of two students – to the level that existed in 2009.”

The union and the school board continued their discussions.

Okay, what happened?

The school board and the union compromised.

Compromise Between MCEA and Montgomery County Schoo Board

How did the school board and the union compromise?

  • The union agreed to a 4.5% pay raise.

But the Board of Education didn’t need the union’s backing. State law permits the Board to allocate taxpayer dollars as it sees fit.

MCEA and the School Board compromise and shake hands 

In the end, MCEA played along with the Board.

The Post ran a glowing editorial in May 2016 praising the school board and MCEA’s compromise.

Here’s a snippet of the Post’s editorial:

“Something remarkable is happening in Montgomery County.

The biggest and most politically powerful union, which represents some 12,000 public school teachers, is positioning itself as a responsible partner rather than an antagonist in its dealings with local elected officials.

If it continues, the shift will represent an evolution in the political culture of one of the region’s biggest and most diverse localities — a traditionally labor-friendly jurisdiction of 1 million people where profound demographic change is driving a rethinking of settled assumptions.

Among those assumptions is the idea that the teachers union could intimidate politicians to the extent that it would dun candidates for public office for campaign contributions — yes, you read that right — an upside-down practice unknown in the rest of the United States.

A correlate of that assumption in recent years has been that in the union’s worldview, compromise was a zero-sum game.”

A Miner Detail appreciates the necessary work unions do on behalf of their members.

Labor unions sometimes flex their political power at the most inconvenient times – sometimes without much regard for the taxpayers who pay the bills.

But that’s their job – to advocate on behalf of their members.

Though in today’s toxic political culture, compromise is a pleasant distraction.

A school board and politically active labor union came together under the guise of fiscal restraint.

These rare moments are celebratory.

Ryan Miner Administrator
Ryan Miner is Editor & Founder of A Miner Detail, a Maryland Politics Blog.

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