Delegate Wants To Create Salary Commission for Montgomery County School Board Members

Commission would review board compensation every four years


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Del. Eric Luedtke

MARYLAND GENERAL ASSEMBLY WEBSITE

Maryland Del. Eric Luedtke is advocating for a new approach to increasing the school board’s pay.

The former Montgomery County Public Schools teacher is planning to introduce a bill that would create a compensation commission to study the board members’ pay every four years. The commission would consider the school board’s workload, salaries of peers in other jurisdictions and other factors to develop a salary recommendation, which would go to the state Legislature for approval.

Luedtke said he views the change as a “good government” measure, since salaries for most other elected officials are set by similar commissions. By contrast, raises for the Montgomery County Board of Education are somewhat unpredictable, he said.

“An increase doesn’t happen based on inflation. It happens when the state Legislature remembers, ‘Oh, hey, we haven’t increased their salaries in a while,’” Luedtke said Wednesday in a phone interview.

Montgomery County’s school board is the highest paid in the state. Adult members get $25,000 per year, except for the board president, who receives $29,000.

In Prince George’s County, most school board members have annual salaries of $18,000, while Howard County board members take home $15,000 per year.

In Baltimore City, school board members don’t get any salary.

However, Luedtke (D-Burtonsville) said he thinks Montgomery County’s school board members are underpaid.

“They easily put in as much time as a member of the state Legislature, and we make twice as much as they do,” said Luedtke, who plans to introduce his proposal during the 2018 state legislative session.

The jobs of a Maryland legislator and school board member are both considered part time, but state delegates are on track to take home more than $48,000 this year. He also pointed out that the school board handles about half of the county’s roughly $5.4 billion budget.

School Board President Michael Durso said that between school visits, committee meetings, emailing and formal board meetings, board members easily work more than 20 hours each week. Some weeks, board members might spend more than 30 hours on the job, he added.

Durso said a higher salary could encourage more people to run for the school board. However, he said the large time commitment is the primary reason that many people don’t pursue the post and noted that the board is now a mix of retirees and stay-at-home parents.

Durso said board members themselves bear some responsibility for managing their schedules and sticking to a policy-making role rather than getting too involved in the day-to-day functioning of the school system.

“I don’t think the job should be full time. I don’t think we need eight more superintendents, and yet to do the job and to be responsive to concerns … is a bit of a balancing act,” he said.

Luedtke’s idea of establishing a commission to look at the school board’s responsibilities and salaries makes sense, Durso said.

The five-person compensation commission would be appointed by the Montgomery County executive and confirmed by the County Council, under Luedtke’s proposal. None of the members could be employed by the board of education or have a relative who works for the school system.

The measure as drafted would call on the commission to issue its first salary report by Sept. 1, 2019, and once every four years after that.

In addition to crafting salary recommendations, the commission also would be responsible for considering the $5,000 scholarship that a student board member is awarded for his or her service.

Commission members would consider board members’ responsibilities, necessary education and skills, time commitment to the job and workload, as well as salaries of school board members in other jurisdiction and the pay of subordinate employees.

Bethany Rodgers can be reached at bethany.rodgers@bethesdamagazine.com.

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