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Wait and see on furloughs
Teachers sit tight
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Forsyth County News
With 15 years under her belt, Myriam Downey loves being a teacher.

But with her paychecks getting smaller, it’s becoming more difficult for her to manage.

“I’m a single mom and I can’t afford this,” said Downey, who teaches at South Forsyth Middle School. “Honestly, I’m considering going into a different profession.”

Already, the state’s 3 percent cut in education funding has resulted in three furlough days for Forsyth County teachers.

More could follow once the 2010 General Assembly convenes on Jan. 11.

“All we have to go on right now are rumors,” said Tim Callahan, spokesman for the Professional Association of Educators.

“The economic situation is continuing to be grim, so the legislators are going to turn in a number of ways to try to make up money.”

The 78,000-member association opposed the first round of furloughs and would oppose any such future considerations, Callahan said.

Downey said rumors have been swirling among teachers.

“It’s a common topic of conversation,” she said. “It’s not fair to us. Bigger class sizes and shorter school years — it all comes out that we end up having less money. We’re expected to do more with less pay.”

Alyssa Degliumberto, principal of Johns Creek Elementary, said she has been able to manage her furlough days.

“We’ve just planned for it,” she said of her family’s budget. “Because of the economy, teachers have been very understanding.”

Callahan said the ability to deal with the pay reduction “varies from person to person.”

“It was difficult for some,” he said. “It just depends on where they are for salary schedules.”

Like all county teachers, Downey took unpaid leave Aug. 7 and Oct. 12. She also will have off Jan. 4 without pay.

The furlough days took up three of 10 planning days.

Not every county in the state used furloughs. Some dipped into reserves or used other methods to supplement the 3 percent cut in state education funding.

About $180 million of Forsyth’s $269 million school budget goes toward employee salaries. Last year, the system spent about $1 million per day on teacher salaries.

The school calendar still has a few remaining planning days that could handle furloughs, but education board chairwoman Ann Crow said there’s no telling what could happen over the next few months.

“It’s my understanding [that] the state legislators are going to deal with the supplemental budget first thing,” she said. “There’s been a lot of talk of additional days ... but we haven’t heard any number, or any indication, of what our legislators will do.

“We’re just going to have to wait and see.”