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Scare: Rex: School Job Cuts Forecast, Teachers not Administrators to lose jobs…

May 3, 2010

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, May 3, 2010

School job cuts next year could top 3,000; Rex says legislators must
act

COLUMBIA – State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex said today that
state budget cuts will cause local school districts to eliminate between
2,100 and 3,800 positions next school year, including 1,400 to 2,500
classroom teaching jobs.

Those cuts come on top of more than 2,200 positions that were
eliminated this year, including 1,400 teaching jobs.

Rex said that while some job cuts would be made through attrition, some
would have to be accomplished through layoffs over the summer.  The
survey shows that districts are continuing to eliminate administrative
positions in far greater proportions than teaching positions.

“Right now South Carolina is at the 11th hour,” Rex said.  “And
next year is midnight.  If our General Assembly doesn’t find the
courage to address our dysfunctional taxation and school funding
systems, political malpractice won’t be too strong a term for what
happens.”

The South Carolina Department of Education’s projections are based on
a survey of local school districts’ preliminary budget plans for
2010-11, based on the version of next year’s budget currently being
discussed in the Senate.  Although not all districts have responded to
the survey, the Education Department was able to extrapolate statewide
numbers using projections from the districts that have responded.  A
similar survey last year ended up underestimating the severity of job
cuts statewide.

Teachers who remain employed will likely see salary freezes or pay
cuts.  The Education Department’s survey indicates that local school
districts anticipate between 64,000 and 78,000 classroom teacher
furlough days, which would mean lost wages of between $17 million and
$20 million for teachers alone.

“That’s a significant economic blow, particularly in rural
communities where public schools are the largest employers,” Rex said.
“When the purchasing power of 50,000 teachers is diminished in a
small state like ours, the ripple effects are considerable.”

South Carolina school districts have been hit with a series of state
budget cuts over the past 19 months.  Although the impact was softened
by federal stimulus funds, districts have drastically cut operational
expenses, reduced or eliminated successful academic programs, delayed
building maintenance, and required administrators and teachers to take
unpaid leaves sometimes referred to as “furloughs.”

The version of next year’s budget being debated in the Senate would
mean an $800 million cut in two years – 25 percent less money than
schools had at the beginning of the 2008-09 school year.  The state’s
Base Student Cost, the fundamental building block of local school
district budgets, would drop to levels not seen since 1995.

“Local school districts have tried to protect classroom teachers’
jobs,” Rex said.  “But salaries account for 80-90 percent of a
typical school district budget, and at some point it becomes impossible
to avoid cutting money from the parts of a budget where most of the
money is.  If 80-90 percent of your money goes to salaries – mostly to
teacher salaries – and 25 percent of your state funding is cut, then
eliminating teaching positions is unavoidable.

Unlike local school districts’ anticipated 25 percent budget cut over
the last two years, the cut to South Carolina Department of Education
operations would be 45 percent.  All agency employees – including Rex –
took a pay cut of one week’s salary last year in the form of a
mandatory five-day furlough, and Rex has ordered additional five-day
furloughs this year and next year.  The agency has reduced staffing by
120 positions, and additional job reductions are planned.

But those actions have little impact outside the agency, Rex said,
because our Columbia administrative offices account for only 2 percent
of overall state K-12 funding.

“If there were ever a time for courage and creativity, this is it,”
Rex said.  “For the past three years as State Superintendent, I have
called on the General Assembly to pass comprehensive tax and funding
reform, including increasing our lowest-in-the-nation cigarette tax to
the national average, with half of the proceeds going to keep teachers
in classrooms and the other dedicated to health care.  Our state’s $2
billion in tax exemptions, including a sales tax system that taxes a
five-year-old Ford at the same rate as a new Lear jet, needs to be
examined and overhauled.”

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