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Teacher's pay raise may be at risk

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By Christian Jennings - bio | email

July 30, 2008

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Teachers and other state employees are expecting a two-and-a-half percent pay raise this year, but they might not get it. The new budget year just started but the state is already way behind on revenue collections. And big budget cuts are likely. Those promised raises could be on the chopping block.

The empty hallways of Westover High will soon be filled with students, bustling to get from class to class.  But Wednesday it's just the teachers, here for a faculty meeting. They're preparing for a new school year, and a two and a half percent pay increase.

"Honestly everybody wants every pay raise they can get. But the teaching profession, which as you can see I've been in it my whole life, I think its very important, and I think its important for the state to realize just how important the profession is," one teacher, Betty Gotsch says.

But Georgia's economy and lagging tax collections are forcing legislative leaders to reconsider 700 million dollars in new spending. Part of the new spending budgets included raises for teachers. Now, that may be at risk.

"People that come into our profession will probably leave because of the pay. So we're hoping that the state will realize that we're losing good teachers that will benefit our children, that would shape and mold them into the citizens of this town and this state," says Westover High Media Specialist Shirley Paramore.

"I think it's going to affect the new teachers probably more than anybody else cause they're the ones that are going to be at the starting pay. I've seen teachers that have to take on second jobs in the summer to help supplement their income," explains another teacher, Tye Beck.

Frustration and hard times may be ahead for state employees, but these teachers say it won't stop them from doing what they love.

"I think your going to find that the majority of educators are not in it for the money, and so we'll just continue to do what we do," Gotsch says.

"Our kids come first, and we will worry about that and let the rest take care of itself I suppose," says English teacher Barbara Jack.

Top state legislative leaders are proposing to hold a special session to discuss future spending cuts. A new report by the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute says the state could face a shortfall of 2-billion dollars or more this year if tax collections continue to decline.

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