Monday, January 21, 2002

Teachers' pay raises could mean lost jobs

The Associated Press

        HAZARD — Gov. Paul Patton's plan to give teachers a 2.7 percent pay raise next year could mean about $20 more a week for teachers in Perry County.

        But the new expense could also mean that some teachers have to lose their jobs.

        Less money means fewer teacher's aides, students riding older buses, classrooms that are more cramped and the elimination of art and music classes, said Doug Campbell, assistant superintendent of schools in the eastern Kentucky county.

        “If it's not something you have to do, you take it out” of the budget, said Mr. Campbell, who was vocal about the potential impact of the pay-raise plan. He did admit, however, that his teachers deserve more compensation.

        Many educators across the state have the same concerns about Mr. Patton's proposal to require local school districts to pay for the raises. At the same time, the amount of state money given to districts would be the same as last year.

        But supporters of the raise say the threat of classroom layoffs is a knee-jerk reaction.

        Judith Gambill, president of the 27,000-member Kentucky Education Association, the teachers' union, said such talk amounts to “a tactic to scare people. It's very easy to say we'll lay off staff, and I think that's a simplistic way of looking at this.”

        The governor's plan, which would cost $69 million next year, will be introduced Tuesday in his two-year budget proposal. The state would pay for a 2.7 percent teacher pay raise in the second year of the budget.

        In Perry County, the pay raises and insurance premiums would take $877,000 from the school system's $23.6 million general operating budget, Mr. Campbell said. That would come on top of a $300,000 drop in state funding because of a decline in enrollment, he said.

        Job losses are inevitable because about three-fourths of the county's expenses are in salaries. Up to 20 teachers — almost 5 percent of Perry's staff of 410 teachers — could be cut, Mr. Campbell said.

        “This is the worst case we've ever seen” in the district's budget, Mr. Campbell said.


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- Teachers' pay raises could mean lost jobs