Will teachers be furloughed again? - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Will teachers be furloughed again?

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By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) -  Governor Nathan Deal promised to end teacher furlough days and return to a 180 day school year, but it may just be empty promises.

School systems say state funding under Deal's budget plan won't change much and they're questioning the Governor's math.

Systems still face austerity cuts and have been told transportation and school nurse grants will be cut next school year.

Last year, 135 of 180 school systems reduced their school year. Dougherty County cut the school year by 3 days and could do that again next school year. Looking at numbers right now they say furlough days are inevitable.

In the classroom it was business as usual, students used guitar strings to learn math ratios. In the finance office they're also working on math, trying to determine how they'll come up with the money to meet a 180 day school year.

"Students perform better the more seat time they have and the closer contact time they have with teachers and the curriculum," said DCSS Public Information Director R. D. Harter.

It may not happen. Dougherty County has a waiver to have three fewer days in the classroom next school year and they may use it along with the same 10 furlough days they saw this school year.

"Do we want to give furlough days? No but it's a reality, if we don't give furlough days, we pink slip people and people are better with furlough days than not a job," said DCSS Exec. Director Finance & Operational Services Robert Lloyd.

Employee costs make up 90% of a school's budget. Despite the Governor's increase of $30 million to education, it's not enough to make up for the furlough days so many schools took this year.

"That base is hardly going to pay for the step raises, that we have to pay teachers and that's certainly not going to address the furlough days that most school systems throughout the state have implemented," Lloyd said.

Schools were also warned they'll face transportation and school nurse cuts. "We are required to bus kids who live a mile and a half away from school to school," Lloyd said.

Robert Lloyd says he also has to factor in the tax digest is going to be flat or down slightly and he says a property tax increase to make up the difference isn't something school board members have been willing to consider.

The entire situation has kept the school system from issuing its calendar for next school year, because they don't know how many furlough days they'll need. Today school officials said they expect to bring a tentative calendar to the school board next week.

Each furlough day teacher took this school year saved the system a half-million dollars. To replace those days, Dougherty County schools will have to come up with five million dollars. The schools saved some federal stimulus funds but say it won't make up the difference.

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