Searching for additional ways to cut costs in anticipation of more state budget cuts, a House panel voted Tuesday to remove five paid work days from state teachers’ schedules. All administrators would be furloughed for 10 days. it is estimated that the move would save $100 million. The proposals have been forwarded to the full House Ways and Means Committee. Palmetto State Teachers Association Executive Director Kathy Maness says her organization is against mandatory furloughs, and that their are sufficient laws already on the books that gives individual districts to take cost cutting measures. “To allow for the five day furlough, allow them to negotiate salaries for rehired retirees,allow the suspension of some testing, not to accept some textbooks that were up for adoption, the ability to transfer funds between different line items. That flexibility legislation is already on the books for the last school year and the present school year.”
The House panel also voted to suspend all end-of-year tests not required under federal law.
Maness says not all school districts in South Carolina are the same and so it stands to reason that a mandatory furlough for all teachers and administrators may not be the most effective way to deal with budget shortfalls. Maness says officials in each district are best equipped to make decisions involving budgetary matters and matters of policy and they have been aggressive in taking those steps due to the recession. “The local elected school board in each of our districts know whats best for their particular area. What’s best for Horry County may not be best for Oconee County. We’re going from the beach to the mountains there, and it’s about what’s best for each local school district.”
The House panel’s proposal to suspend all end-of-year testing not required by federal law means high school students will not take end of course tests. Also there will be no end-of-year social studies testing in grades three through eight. Maness says individual school districts have had issues in the past in dealing with end-of year-testing in certain subject matters. “In the past when this issue has come up, a lot of the Social Studies teachers were really upset that we were going to stop testing Social studies. They felt like if there subject was not tested that some people may not see the importance of it, and that may trus in some our districts unfortunately.”
Maness agrees that suspending end-of-year testing is a budget cutting step that must be taken during these tough economic times.
Maness painfully acknowledges that the massive cuts to education during this recession has taken its toll on those who have heeded the call to become teachers. ” I have been in education for 26 years and I will tell you that this is the lowest in teacher morale I have ever seen in my 26 years. Of course i can say it’s not only teachers, it’s state employees, it’s everybody in South Carolina. We are in a terrible financial situation. Part of the flexibility legislation allows for larger class sizes and we are seeing that. We know over 1,000 teachers lost their jobs last year because of budget cuts.”