Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Shapiro: Put Teachers On Unpaid Furloughs And Cut Their Salaries

HOUSTON CHRONICLE — School districts should be allowed to give teachers unpaid furloughs and cut their salaries to help deal with a funding shortfall that one estimate says could cost 100,000 jobs, says State Senate Education Committee Chairman Florence Shapiro, R-Plano.
Under budget proposals to cut $31 billion from state spend, school districts would get $9.8 billion less through the next two years. One expert has estimated 100,000 school district jobs will be eliminated in Texas through the next two years.
“One of those burdens that we have placed on our school districts is that they cannot decrease teacher salaries and they can’t furlough teachers. It’s not allowed in the law. The only option is to fire,” said Shapiro. “We need to give them the ability to lower teacher salaries.” Shapiro said she hopes to have a committee meeting “the very first thing out of the box” on so-called unfunded mandates, such as the salary issue. “The last thing we want to do is put people on the unemployment rolls,” she said. “So we’ve got to make sure that that particular part of the law is erased.”

One teacher group said the idea [of cutting teacher salaries forcing teachers to take unpaid furloughs, as Shapiro proposes] is another example of the state looking to go backward to close the funding gap.
School superintendents are pushing for flexibility that would allow them to furlough employees, if necessary, on non-instructional days. “It’s something that superintendents are looking for flexibility on,” said Jenny Caputo, spokeswoman for the Texas Association of School Administrators. “Certainly nobody wants to furlough employees,” Caputo said, calling furloughs a lesser evil than layoffs or eliminating positions.

Richard Kouri, a Texas State Teachers Association spokesman, said his group is split on the issue of furloughs and salary decreases. It does not want to limit options to deal with the funding crisis but believes the state should be increasing professional development days and “getting our salaries out of the bottom third in the country” to recruit and retain the best, he said. “If we’re going to look at a long list of things that are bad options that are going to take public education in Texas the wrong direction instead of the right direction,” he said, “they might as well be on the list of things that are going to take us in the wrong direction.”

Read the full story at the HOUSTON CHRONICLE
Fast-growing Frisco ISD may take one of the hardest hits in the region with cuts of up to $84 million and and Allen ISD faces $18 million in cuts. Plano ISD is already planning $65 million in cuts.

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