Friday, June 07, 2002

State to fund teacher raises

Patton supports 2.7% increase

By Earnest Winston,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Kentucky school districts got some good news Thursday when Gov. Paul Patton told superintendents that — absent a budget agreement — he plans to fund 2.7 percent teacher raises for the 2002-03 school year.

        The governor said in an e-mail sent to Kentucky's 176 superintendents that he will use an executive order to implement a spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1 if the budget impasse in the General Assembly is not resolved soon.

        The plan mirrors the one the governor prepared for the failed eight-day special session in April. It will fund raises for teachers and other certified employees, but not classified employees such as teachers' aides, bus drivers and cafeteria employees.

        “It's fairly good news for every school district in the state,” said Brad Hughes, spokesman for the Kentucky School Boards Association.

        “It is a far better situation and will allow many school districts to greatly reduce the number of pink-slipped employees that they had to give notices to because of the previous budget instructions that they had,” he said.

        Last month Education Commissioner Gene Wilhoit told school districts to use a “worst-case” scenario when preparing their tentative budgets.

        Fred Bassett, superintendent of Beechwood Independent Schools, said the announcement is semi-good news. He said the state funded raises the same way in the past, which means districts will be responsible for covering raises for classified employees, which “does put us in a bind,” Mr. Bassett said.

        Meanwhile, Mr. Hughes said he knows of no legal basis that would allow Northern Kentucky superintendents to keep about $1.4 million in “flexible spending money” that the school chiefs have threatened to withhold from the state. The funds are unspent state contributions to health insurance for school employees, Mr. Hughes said.


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