Sunday, December 23, 2001

Patton: Increase teacher pay

Districts would cover part of cost-of-living raise

The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — Gov. Paul Patton is floating an idea to give the state's public-school teachers a 2.7 percent cost-of-living pay increase in each of the next two budget years, and school districts will be asked to pick up part of the bill.

        “We've got to maintain faith with our teachers,” Mr. Patton said. “That means we can't expect them to take a pay cut. If you don't get a cost-of-living increase, you've taken a pay cut.”

        Because of state budget shortfalls, Mr. Patton's plan would encourage local school districts to fund the roughly $36 million tab for the first year of the two-year budget cycle, followed by state funding for the second.

        Mr. Patton could include those raises in the budget he presents to the 2002 General Assembly in January or could call for them in a resolution that would require legislative approval.

        Mr. Patton's proposal could be good news for teachers who faced the possibility of no raises at all this year, but bad news for poorer school districts, which might have to cut programs.

        “This will probably mean some very difficult decisions for a great majority of school districts,” said David Keller, director of the Kentucky School Boards Association.

        Mr. Patton met with several superintendents to discuss the plan last week. Oldham County Superintendent Blake Haselton, who attended the meeting, said he supports Mr. Patton's plan because attracting and retaining good teachers is crucial to education reform.

        Education Commissioner Gene Wilhoit said the proposal “is not set in stone, but if it happens we will work with districts to make sure they make the best use of their money.”

        Judith Gambill, director of the Kentucky Education Association, the state teacher union, said Mr. Patton's idea could be a key step to keeping teacher pay steady.


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