The state senate voted Thursday, 39 to 0, to give local school districts the flexibility to deal with their budget woes. One more vote and the bill goes to the House, which has already approved similar legislation. The bill would suspend teacher-student rations. It would also allow districts to furlough teachers for up to five days and administrators up to ten days, and allow the negotiation of salaries for retired teachers below the district schedule. The legislation also encourages districts to maximize resources by expanding virtual instruction, limiting the number of low enrollment courses, reducing travel for staff and board members, reducing activities requiring dues and reducing transportation costs for extracurricular activities.
Senators amended the bill to require that school districts list all their spending online of $100 or more. That was a proposal from Republican Kevin Bryant of Anderson, who says he’s not in favor of state lawmakers micromanaging local classrooms. He says he wants school administrators to have more flexibility, but not loose accountability. “Sunshine is the best disinfectent. It’s the ultimate accountabilty, where teachers, parents and the taxpayer can go online and see where their money is going.”
The school district flexitility measure would extend by one month the April 15th deadline for handing out teacher contracts. State superintendent Jim Rex says if officials are forced to make decisions now before they fully know how federal stimulus dollars will affect them, they could cut teacher jobs unnecessarily.
Bryant says if his amendment becomes law, local districts will have the free help of the Comptroller General’s office in making sure their expenditures are posted. “So when a teacher comes to me and they say they don’t understaned how there’s no money for classroom supplies, then they can go to the website and see where all the money is going for non-instructional expenses.”