Georgia proposes furloughs for teachers

By Laurie Bernstein - bio | email

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - After working as a teacher for almost 30 years, nothing surprises Raymechia Smith anymore.

As a board member for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, she has seen cutbacks many times before, and teacher furloughs are just one more to add to the pile.

"My first reaction was, 'Oh no, not again.' For them to try and budget on the backs of teachers, it's fixing one problem by making another," said Smith.

The 2009 budget has been dealt with, but now, Georgia lawmakers are looking toward next year...they're grappling with a projected $1.6 billion shortfall in 2010.

25,000 state employees have already been forced to take unpaid furlough days, and now, some members of the Georgia legislature want over 125,000 educators to join their ranks.

Teachers say it's a stupid idea for many reasons...the first issue comes down to money.

Six days may not sound like a lot, but for the average teacher, it means $1,000 coming out of their paycheck every year.

The other issue is where those furlough days will come from...lawmakers want to cut planning and training days, instead of class time.

Teachers, though, warn about the effects on their level of readiness in the classroom.

"When children come in, there is no time to plan. We need to be ready and running, as if we weren't having a break at all," said Smith.

Legislators say taking furloughs now will prevent layoffs later, but educators say there are no guarantees on the safety of their jobs.

What they do know is that education is too important to keep chipping away at.

The furloughs have not been put into the budget was just mentioned as a proposal voiced inside an education committee meeting.

Count on News Leader Nine for any developments on the story.