by Ella Smith
Governor Perdue just announced a request for school systems to furlough teachers three days this year as he cuts three percent more from Georgia’s educational funds. The three days of teacher furloughs will only cut one percent from the budget – school boards will have to cut two more percent from their budgets at a time when many school systems are struggling to stay afloat as it is. Governor Perdue’s plan to balance the budget on the backs of Georgia's 128,000 teacher families and on our more than 1.6 million students is not the way to go. More effort should have been made to find other sources – either budget cuts or enhanced revenues.
The economic crisis we are in is very real and educators are not unmindful of the difficult choices our state leaders must make. We understand that having a balanced budget is important to the state, however, how could anyone not believe teacher furloughs will inexorably damage teaching and learning? The announcement, just as the school year is about to begin, could not come at a worse time. Not only will it be a terrific blow to teacher and student morale, it will undercut the normal “back to school” enthusiasm of parents, teachers and students that gets most school years off to a positive start.
Due to all the meetings and registration procedures that school administrators require, teachers already struggle to be ready for school in the five days planning that they are currently provided. Now that teachers will have only two days for preplanning – days that are totally filled with teachers’ meetings and registration – I know there is no way teachers will have time to prepare for their classes.
Teachers already spend many hours grading work at home, attending PTA meetings, and sponsoring clubs and groups without compensation. Frequently, you will find many teachers at school at six or seven o’clock at night and in the morning before class, working to keep up with all the demands of their jobs. Many teachers currently already work many hours a week without getting compensated.
Education appears to be like a leaky ship and educational funds continue to be leaked out due to cuts made by the state over the last few years. The nearly $2 billion in "austerity cuts" to education and the failure to address an antiquated QBE funding formula for K-12 education has put pressure on local school boards in our state. These cuts had already put the education of our Georgia students in a dire position even before the current economic crisis developed. Please contact your legislative leaders and do not let the ship sink. Public education is too important to every child in Georgia and to the future of this great state of Georgia.
Our future professionals, technical staff, legislature leaders, workforce and governors are in our classrooms today. After years of consistently shortchanging the schools boards of this great state financially, our leaders today add to the downgrading of our schools by demanding teacher furloughs. A year from now many of these same political leaders will be asking for contributions and votes. Hopefully, all stakeholders in education and their families will keep the past several years in mind and vote for change to make sure our Georgia schools keep improving our education system instead of trying to sink our ship.
Below is a letter written to all Fulton County Employees from Superintendent Cindy Loe:
Dear Fulton County Faculty and Staff,
As you might have already heard in the news, Governor Perdue recommended yesterday that teachers and other employees be furloughed three days this school year. This announcement comes at an unfortunate time, especially as we prepare to begin a new school year in less than three weeks.
The school system’s 2009-10 budget already has reduced many employees’ workday calendars by 5-20 days as a cost-saving measure. With the governor’s announcement, we are now faced with implementing a similar furlough to our teachers and others who were not affected by the previous workday reductions. Employees who already have experienced workday reductions are not impacted by this new furlough.
I have communicated with school board members and other system leaders to determine how our expenditures can be reduced without negatively impacting our focus on students. Based on their input, I will be recommending to our school board that teachers take these three furlough days during preplanning week, August 3-7. The specific furlough days will be decided by each school’s principal to allow flexibility for the activities already scheduled. School administrators will contact teachers directly to share the week’s new schedule and start dates. Non-teaching staff who are impacted will have their furlough days decided by their principal. The school board is expected to take formal action on the new workday calendars next week.
The good news is that our 2009-10 budgeting process allowed us to keep most full-time staff employed and that we were able to avoid lay-offs and other personnel reductions faced by other metro Atlanta school systems. While not ideal, participating in this furlough will help keep our employment continuity.
Governor Perdue also plans to cut funding to school systems by an additional 3 percent this year. This represents a $7.6 million reduction in our Quality Basic Education (QBE) funding. While we understand the economy’s continuing effects on state funding, this requires that we again examine our spending and allocation of resources. I will be working with our school board and system leaders as to how this reduction will be addressed in our current budget.
Thank you for your support and understanding. We are doing everything possible to meet our school district’s budgetary needs with the least amount of impact on students and staff.
Cindy Loe, Ph.D.