Monday, July 27, 2009

Furlough Musings

I must say a big thank you to my readers for their patience. I was out of the blogsphere for a few days on vacation in Vermont. If you have been to Vermont, you understand why it is the perfect vacation spot for someone in my line of work. Not only is the state very rural and quiet, but cell phone signals and internet connections are very spotty. One is more or less forced not to work.
The 2009-10 School Year, dare I say it, is right around the corner. Allow me a few words about the furlough situation.

First, for school employees the loss of pay for the furlough will not begin until the new contract year. We have had a few questions from teachers wondering if their July pay checks will reflect 2.5% less (state portion). The answer is no. That is pay you are receiving for work in the 2008-09 School Year. The first paycheck to reflect reduced pay for furlough will be the first pay period check in the new school year.

Second, districts have not all reacted the same to the issue of the local portion of pay. In approximate terms, teachers receive about 70% of their pay from the state and about 30% from local funds. For education support professionals, the ratio of local to state funds varies from profession to profession and district to district. Therefore, with the five furlough days forced by the state, do school employees still get paid the local portion? It depends on the district. Some districts were quick to react and say 'you are not working those days, we are not paying'. Other districts acknowledge the furlough days were forced, and that they will not add insult to injury, and thus will pay the local portion of pay on those days. Still again, some districts are "buying back" a day or two of furlough so that they can provide some professional development.

Third, districts should be in discussion with local unions to reach concurrence on a plan to implement the furlough days. Those plans are due to be submitted by districts no later than July 31, 2009 to the Secretary of Education, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Controller General. This should truly be a cooperative situation. No district administration should be submitting a plan without the involvement of the local unions.

Finally, let us put the furlough situation in perspective. If faced with the choice of a straight pay cut verses furlough, furlough is preferable. With a pay cut you work just as long and hard with nothing in return. A furlough gives you an exchange of time for the money. In a furlough situation the salary schedules return to the Fiscal Year 2009 pay level. This is not to say that we will not have another fight over salary next year, but at least the discussion does not begin 2.5% in the hole. Furloughs have been a pain to administrate. Pay cuts would have been a cinch to implement. We want it to be difficult to take something away from education employees.

In conclusion, furloughs are not a good deal, they are simply a better deal than pay reduction without time in exchange. At the end of the day, money is being taken from you at a time when everyone from the President to Johnny's dad is saying you have to do more.

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