What happened with the education bill yesterday?
School officials, namely administrators and superintendents and financial experts of school districts, were pretty much blown away by the details of this bill.
In a sense it gives teachers layoff protection, meaning lawmakers blocked school districts from laying off teachers for upcoming school year, and in same breath, they're saying don't worry about these possible mid-year cuts, just keep the same level of staffing and programs. And if the state does run into problems, and this extra four billion that the budget centers doesn't materialize, well then we'll think about that later.
So in other words the budget had some rosier projections, which allowed them to balance the budget. But this new law says that even if those projections don't come to fruition, then school districts cannot balance their own budgets by laying off teachers?
Correct. And the governor signaled this in a lot of his rhetoric leading up to the deal, saying schools would have to cut their school years short; and by doing that you mean furlough days.
By taking layoffs off the table, the only tool you have as a school district is furloughs. They cut into the school year, because teachers aren't working the full amount of days, so the school year is shortened, which impacts students. So that's really the only way that districts can deal with any type of mid-year cuts, because layoffs are off the table.
And this was surprise?
Yes. Educators didn't have a chance to look at it until it was released, they're up in arms about it, because it provides layoff protections for teachers, pretty much strips county Superjntendents of Education of a power to call an early-warning sign to school districts that theymight be inching toward insolvency. So it's saying, school districts, plan for this school year thinking that you have this extra four billion, we're not going to have officers regulating this if you're nearing an area where you might be in financial instability, and you can't lay off teachers, but you can cut into the school year by issuing furloughs.
Is it possible that some school systems might be in such tight financial straits that the number of furlough days required to balance the budget could be in double digits?
There's been plenty of districts that have already asked their teachers to take five furlough days, which has shortened the school year by five days. If the mid-year cuts go through, you're taking a look at another seven days of loss of instruction, which would equal two weeks out of the school year. This really impacts students; every day is huge for a student. Studies show the more time kids are in school and on task the more they'll learn. In fact President Obama is asking states to lengthen the school year, so this could really impact learning if 12 days are lost.
I imagine there might be some childcare issues too?
This would be a big worry for parents too. If you have two full weeks of the school year that you have to find child care, you'll hear a lot of communities upset over this for sure.