Rockdale County's Board of Education approved three unpaid furlough days for all school system employees, with the first furlough day to take place during preplanning next week.
Gov. Sonny Perdue had recently announced that all state employees would be required to take a three day furlough prior to the end of this calendar year in an effort to shore up a $900 million shortfall in the state budget. Perdue also ordered a 3 percent cut to public schools and Medicaid and another 5 percent cut from most state agencies.
RCPS Superintendent Samuel King recommended that the first furlough day take place during preplanning activities, which normally starts Monday, at the discretion of each school's principal. For elementary schools, the recommended day was Monday or Tuesday and for secondary schools, the recommended day was Thursday or Friday.
The second furlough day will take place Oct. 2, originally set aside as a professional development day. King brought up the possibility of taking Oct. 1, originally set as a half day, as the third furlough day but said the staff would need to examine the issue to ensure it didn't interfere with the 180 days required for students.
Classified employees' furlough days can be determined between each employee and supervisor.
Additionally, there will be a 3 percent QBE reduction for each school system. For Rockdale County, the total recent reductions from state funding are around $2.8 million, slightly less than the initial estimate of $3.1 million.
Even the 115 locally funded teachers will be required to take three furlough days, said Chief Financial Officer Lee Davis. "We feel like that's the most fair, equitable way to treat everyone, from the superintendent to the lowest paid employee," he said.
The money saved from the locally funded position furloughs, about $1.5 million, will help alleviate the 3 percent QBE reduction, but the school system still has to shave about $1.3 million from its 2009-2010 budget of $131 million.
Mary Greco, co-president of the Rockdale Chapter of the Georgia Association of Educators, said the association was watching how the process would work out on the state and district level. "We watched Rockdale dip into reserves in the past year in order to make sure staffing positions were maintained," she said. "I think what you're gong to find among teachers is a real caution in what does this mean for students and what might be some teacher implications." She added, "The good thing is, teacher quality is something we believe in. The quality will be maintained regardless... Teachers give 110 percent. Good teachers do."
At the board meeting, board member Darlene Hotchkiss said she appreciated the work of the school administration and cabinet. "This was dropped upon us out of the blue... This was a very difficult budget in the first place," said Hotchkiss. "I think it's highly irresponsible of the governor to ask the school systems that are already strapped."
"It's a bitter pill to swallow," agreed Board Chairman Wales Barksdale. "The big unknown is what the rest of the year is going to hold after January."
Initially there had been questions raised at a presentation King gave Wednesday morning about teacher's contracts and the furloughs, but King later said everything had been reviewed by School Board attorney Jack Lance, who found no issues.