At an  education subcommittee today, the chairman suggested a “special virus deduction” from the salary of pre-kindergarten teachers rather than furloughing them.
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Special virus deduction: Pre-K teachers would work same hours for less money 

Pre-k teachers could face a reduction in their pay or their hours as Georgia confronts the revenue hole caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is going to involve some cuts that are going to hurt,” said state Sen. Ellis Black, R-Valdosta, leader of an education subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee that met today.

(You can watch video of the meeting here.)

The subcommittee heard the 14% across-the-board budget reduction ordered by the governor could represent a $61 million cut from the state Department of Early Care and Learning. The Georgia Lottery, which funds pre-K, is still recording strong sales.

If lottery funding is subject to the 14% reduction, DECAL Commissioner Amy Jacobs outlined the severe changes that would be required of the Georgia Pre-K program. 

Among them:

--Reduce planning days for teachers from 10 days to 4.

--Trim 13 instructional days from the school year, dropping from 180 to 167 days.

-- The elimination of instructional and planning days means teachers and teaching assistants would not report to work for 19 days and would not be paid for those days. That means they would suffer a 10% salary drop.

--The reduction in days and salaries adds up to a $34 million savings. 

--Eliminate 4,000 out of the 84,000 slots for preschool students, which means closing 180 pre-k classrooms statewide, for a savings of $14 million.

During the meeting, lawmakers threw out a new idea:  Cut the salaries of teachers rather than furlough them.

“A furlough is a pay cut,” said Black. “Rather than have teachers furloughed, what if we go ahead and have 180 instructional days and had a deduction on the pay -- call it a special virus deduction. If we did a special deduction and still had them come to work and teach, it would amount to the same money and kids would still be getting their education.”

How inflammatory would this be to your staff, Black asked Jacobs. 

Jacobs rephrased Black’s proposal twice to make sure she understood his intent. 

“So, they would be required to work the same amount of days for less money? I can’t imagine that a pre-K teacher or any teacher for that matter would think favorable to that if they are required to work the same number of days and receiving less pay,” said Jacobs. 

“Nobody would look favorably upon it. I don’t look favorably upon it,” said Black.  “If we follow through with this, they are going to get less money and the kids are going to get less education. The question is how dedicated are these teachers and are they willing to make that much of a sacrifice so the kids can get that education?”

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About the Author

Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.
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