This is still better than layoffs, but not by much.
School districts would be able to reduce salaries and furlough teachers for up to six days – with layoffs used only as a last resort – under a compromise bill approved Thursday by a Senate committee to help districts deal with funding cuts.
The measure, drafted by Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Education Committee, would authorize school boards and superintendents to take certain steps to reduce expenditures as the state slashes funding over the next two school years.
Those reductions would average at least 6 percent under a preliminary Senate proposal and more than 11 percent under a budget passed by the House this month. Consultants for school districts estimate that the House version would mean 65,000 employees would lose their jobs.
“This gives flexibility to our school districts in a very, very tough budget crunch,” said Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Florence Shapiro, R-Plano.
Shapiro pointed to a key provision in the legislation that limits the cutbacks to no more than each school district’s loss in basic funding. That would be defined as the difference between the district’s current funding and what it will be after the Legislature passes a new budget and school funding plan.
“As long as their funding is below what they received in 2010-11, they will be allowed to furlough employees for up to six non-instructional days and reduce contract salaries in an amount equal to the same percentage as their funding cuts,” she said. “Only after furloughs and salary reductions proportionate to their funding cuts are made may school districts consider an employee reduction-in-force.”
For example, Shapiro said, if a district has funding trimmed by 8 percent, it could only do a combination of salary reductions and furloughs equaling 8 percent – with layoffs allowed if the 8 percent cannot be achieved with pay cuts and furloughs.
Under current law, school districts may not reduce salaries of teachers and other employees under contract, or furlough those employees to save money. Layoffs are the only option.
The Senate bill is SB12; the harsher House bill is HB400. That estimate of 65,000 jobs is on the low end of what has been mentioned, and it should be noted that many school districts have already done reductions in force. I wonder if any of them will reconsider after one of these bills passes. Like I said, it’s better than layoffs, but only in the sense that the flu is better than the Ebola virus. It’s still a disaster, and it’s one that we still haven’t made a serious effort to fix.