2009-08-05 / Front Page

BOE considering furloughs

BOE to hold meeting to discuss furloughs and reduced state funding Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the middle school cafeteria

School systems across the state have been scrambling the past several weeks deciding how to address Gov. Sonny Perdue's call for the state's 128,000 public school teachers to take three unpaid furlough days by the end of the calendar year to meet an additional three percent cut in state funding.

While legally the governor cannot mandate the furloughs, the state Board of Education has approved flexibility for Georgia's school districts, paving the way for systems to furlough teachers and other employees.

The Early County Board of Education has announced a meeting Tuesday to discuss the proposed furloughs and additional cuts in state funding.

School superintendent Kenneth Hall has prepared the following furlough recommendations for the school board's consideration: all staff working beyond 180 days to be furloughed three days; all 11- month employees to be furloughed five days; and all 12-month employees to be furloughed six days.

To help meet the additional cut in state funding the superintendent is recommending that the local supplements be withheld until it is determined funds are available for the supplements.

That recommendation does not include "responsibility" supplements paid to personnel performing additional duties.

Superintendent Hall told the News that those measures should offset the state funding cuts through Dec. 31. If additional cuts are made school officials would consider cutting the school week to four days every other week by not holding school on Mondays and extending the school day by 20 to 25 minutes.

The biggest savings from a four-day school week would be in transportation and utility costs.

"It is important for everyone to understand that any decisions we make are not based solely on savings, but also on what impact those decisions have on the students," Hall stated.

The meeting will be Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the middle school cafeteria prior to the board's regular monthly meeting.

Officials estimate that every day the state's teachers are not paid saves the state $33 million.

Perdue held a conference call with local superintendents from around the state to break the news about the cuts and furloughs and explain the seriousness of the situation.

"It saddens me that our economic situation is so dire that further reductions to education funding must be made, but I appreciate that the governor and legislature have done everything they can to cut education less than other areas," State Schools Superintendent Kathy Cox said in a statement about the cuts.

"I will be working with local superintendents so we can minimize the impact these budget reductions will have on student achievement."

Other state agencies are being confronted by a five percent funding cut and being told to prepare for cuts up to eight percent.

The Department of Mental Health will not be facing funding cuts as the agency operates under an agreement with the Justice Department to correct deficiencies in mental health hospitals.

A review of headlines from newspapers across the state the past two weeks reveal that most, but not all school systems are implementing the furloughs. Some systems are resorting to acrossthe board pay cuts, withholding retirement fund contributions and contingency funds.

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