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Furloughs to fall on planning days
District won't cut school time
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Forsyth County News
Helen Jensen wasn’t surprised when she learned Forsyth County teachers would be given a three-day unpaid furlough from their jobs.

The third-grade teacher at Mashburn Elementary School also understands the need for the 3 percent cut in statewide education funding.

“It’s fine with me as long as it saves people’s jobs,” she said. “Teachers do what they have to do. We won’t get paid, but it’s spread over the course of the 12-month pay, so it won't be a big impact all at one time.”

The Forsyth County school system announced its plan to comply with Gov. Sonny Perdue’s suggestion to require the furloughs, which will fall on scheduled planning days, to compensate for funding cuts.

Forsyth County school system employees who work between 190 and 230 days, including teachers, nurses and food service personnel, must take unpaid leave Aug. 7, Oct. 12 and Jan. 4.

For employees who work 240 days, which include administrators and central office personnel, the required days off will be Nov. 25 and Dec. 23 and 30.

The dates still must be approved by the county school board, which meets Thursday, but Superintendent Buster Evans does not expect them to change.

“We didn’t want to cut into school time because that was a priority that was expressed by the governor and that was a priority that we had,” Evans said. “Basically, the furlough days for the employees ... were already days that were established either as student planning or professional learning days.”

As a result, teachers will lose three of their 10 days of planning time, Evans said.

Jensen said she likely will still work during some of her furlough time. Evans suspects she’s not alone.

“Teachers work more than 190 days already,” he said. “If you ride by many of our schools, you’ll see there are cars out there and teachers are getting their classrooms ready.

“I think most of us in the system end up working more than what our actual days are ... it just seems the nature of the job.”

Evans said none of the employees will be required or expected to work without compensation, but “just knowing the professional nature of our teachers, my guess would be that you’ll see a number of them around on the furlough days.”

Between the education cuts and his request for state agencies to slash 5 percent from their budgets, Perdue said he hopes to cover the $900 million shortfall in the state’s budget.

Evans fears there could be more furlough days to come.

School system employees still will have about three days of paid planning when the state legislature reconvenes in January, he said. If the state doesn’t see an increase in tax revenues, they may lose them.

“We do have some early release days in the second half of the year,” Evans said. “One potential solution may be to ... cut short those early release days. But we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

Across the state, many of the 128,000 teachers likely will take off the three unpaid days. But not every county will require furloughs. There are other options, like dipping into reserves, to make up the state’s 3 percent cut.

About $180 million of the system’s $269 million budget is spent on employee salaries. Evans said last year’s calculations valued the county’s teachers at about $1 million per day.

Enacting furloughs was a decision “that we regret,” he said.

“But in reality ... so much of the state budget is education, and so much of that budget is tied into personal salaries and benefits," he said. "While I certainly don’t think it’s the best thing for education, I think it’s one of those things that is an option that had to be executed.”

E-mail Jennifer Sami at jennifersami@forsythnews.com.