07 Apr Madison Co. Plans 40 Fewer Teachers

April 7, 2010

By: Lucy Weber
Source: The Clarion Ledger

Madison County schools will have 40 fewer teaching positions next year, and all district personnel – including teachers, administrators, clerical workers and the central office staff – will be furloughed for three days.

The reduction in positions, part of a cost-saving package, could lead to a higher student-teacher ratio for some schools.
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The downsizing will be done through attrition, Superintendent Mike Kent said. "We can do a reduction in force without firing anyone."

Other metro-area school districts are looking to attrition to thin their ranks, too.

Jackson Public Schools officials are considering eliminating 200 teaching positions through attrition and cutting the security officers ranks at elementary schools to help absorb a potential funding cut of up to $19 million next school year.

In Rankin County, 85 teaching jobs and three administrative spots will be cut, primarily through attrition.

The Madison County School Board on Monday approved a plan to reduce personnel costs by $2.24 million in the 2010-11 school year by not filling empty slots and through furloughs.

Leaving 40 jobs empty amounts to about one less teacher at schools with 300 students or less and two fewer at schools of about 600, Kent said. The largest impact would be at Madison Central High, which would lose about five positions, he said.

Though the Legislature has not settled state funding for public schools, the district is planning a 15 percent cutback, or a reduction of $8 million, in its upcoming budget. Proposed reductions in other areas, equaling about $5.76 million, will be considered when the school board votes on a budget in June.

"This gives us a way to balance the budget to the 15 percent level, but we can’t do that without getting into personnel," Kent said. "By using attrition, this allows us to save jobs. Typically, we have a turnover of 80 to 100 teaching positions. Rather than hire that number back, we will hire 40 less."
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So far, 34 teachers have given notice they don’t plan to return next year, but Kent said he expects that number will rise as the end of school draws closer. In 2007, 117 teachers left voluntarily for a variety of reasons, including moving, retirement or other jobs. In 2008, there were 118 who left, and last year 95 left.
Under state law, school districts cannot exceed student-teacher ratios of 27-to-1 for first through fourth grades. District officials must request a waiver to exceed those limits or risk losing some funding.

The three-day furlough, part of an education bill now before Gov. Haley Barbour, will save the district about $500,000 since teachers will work 184 days instead of the usual 187, finance director Debbie Jones said. The majority of teachers likely won’t feel the cut in their monthly salaries, she said, since they automatically get an increase in pay from the state for each year they work.

"The amount of the step increase and the three-day furlough almost wash out," Jones said. "They won’t feel the effects of the furlough since it’s spread over 12 months."

How each teacher’s salary is affected by the furlough depends on that person’s certification level and years of experience, she said. The biggest cut anticipated would be $300, which would amount to a $25 cut in each paycheck for 12 months, Jones said.

"The people who will feel the most impact are administrators and the central office clerical staff. They didn’t get raises last year, this year or next," Kent said.

If the governor signs House Bill 1170, the three days off without pay will be at the beginning and end of school. Students will continue to attend 180 days.
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The deadline for the governor to sign or veto the bill is today.

The bill also says any teacher who is furloughed will receive a half day of paid personal time off within the school year. The furloughs would have to be taken during teacher institution days and not on instructional days.

Kent said the furlough dates have not been determined for the administrators and central office staff on 12-month contracts. All of those personnel will take the same three days, probably sometime in July, Kent said.

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