Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Educators see negative impact on instruction due to call for furloughs

“The members of the Georgia Association of Educators (GAE) are obviously concerned and disappointed about Gov. Perdue’s call for furloughing three planning days between now and the end of this calendar year,” said GAE President Jeff Hubbard whose association represents over 42,000 educators. “They are concerned that the loss of those planning days, or any days, will negatively impact their ability to provide quality instruction to their students, which is their priority. This amounts to less time to prepare for their students, which impacts their ability to get the school year off to a great start. One question we are looking into is whether our state statutes allow the governor to implement furloughs for contractual employees, which are the majority of our state teachers. He has handed off the responsibility for making these hard decisions to the superintendents and school boards. He does not have the authority to mandate furloughs for school employees because they are essentially employed by the local school systems.”

Hubbard notes that planning days are critical, especially this time of year, because they are used for the initial preparation for the implementation of our state’s increasingly challenging state standards and curriculum, for the preparation of differentiated instruction based on various learning styles, for academic and grade level team planning, and to prepare the classroom for the children, among many other things. “Educators are not blind to the effects of the recession and the need to trim budgets,” said Hubbard, “but we would ask lawmakers to fully explore all other possibilities before resorting to negatively impacting student instruction, especially on the heels of the recent gains made in attaining AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress).

Some suggestions Hubbard’s organization proposes are reexamining the state’s tax incentive and tax-free programs. “At a critical time when our state’s coffers are not where we need them to be, it would be negligent to not look at methods to bring in much needed tax monies such as temporarily suspending the upcoming sales tax holiday, examining our corporate tax structure to see if they are paying their fair share, and looking at the feasibility of tax incentive giveaways such as those provided to motion-picture companies. Georgia desperately needs a fair and equitable taxation system. The recession has only served to highlight this need.”

Another question Hubbard asks is regarding the federal stimulus monies from the American Relief and Reinvestment Act and whether the governor has violated its requirements by taking the budget back before fiscal year 2006 levels [At his press conference the governor remarked that he had taken the budget back to FY 2005 levels]. If so, Georgia would be ineligible to receive additional stimulus funds and could have to repay some funds.

“Some complain about our state’s ability to educate our children, but I know educators do an excellent job with ever dwindling resources,” said Hubbard. “And as is their nature, educators will continue to come out of their pockets an average of $550-$600 a year to provide for their classrooms and students. Name one other profession where the professionals willingly take out of their own pockets, and subsequently, from their own families, to provide for their jobs. Under Gov. Perdue’s tenure to this point, austerity cuts have bled Georgia’s schools to the tune of $1.6 billion. And ironically, more and more is taken from them while more and more is asked of them. Educators are a special breed, which is why GAE is proud to represent them.”

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