Baltimore City Pays School Employees $65 Million For Benefits Over 5 Years

An article in The Baltimore Sun* discussed  Baltimore City school employees receiving an estimated $65 million of unused leave over the last five years. During the same time frame, $43 million has also been paid to both retired or resigned high and low tenured employees. Thus, due to the economic difficulties facing the state, some private and public sectors have cut back on personal benefits in an effort to save jobs and manage their budgets, which is an area Baltimore City sees differently:

“We know it’s unique, and we certainly understand why questions will be raised,” said Tisha Edwards, chief of staff for the city school system. “But we do think it has a place in the school system, and we don’t think it reflects an unreasonable expense.”

Edwards said that while the long-standing benefits are costly, they are a worthwhile expense for “rewarding positive behavior” in a system that continues to struggle with attractive compensation packages, harsh working conditions and attendance.

Subsequently, education researchers and The U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, have voiced their concerns about the city’s approach to the topic:

Education researchers say that such leave policies are increasingly coming under fire in public school systems across the nation and that Baltimore should consider re-evaluating them in the current economic climate.

Last week, U.S Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told a Chicago newspaper that “people should take a hard look at whether or not that policy makes sense … in these tight budget times,” after it was discovered that he had received a $50,000 payout for unused vacation when he left the superintendent’s job in Chicago.

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