Georgia's 115,000 public school teachers would have to wait until May 15 for the next three years to know if they have contracts under legislation passed Tuesday by the state House.
Teachers had been notified by April 15 whether they had a job for the coming year. But budget shortfalls last year pushed that approval date back by a month because of falling state revenues in the grinding recession.
The House, on a 136-33 vote, agreed Tuesday to extend the May 15 approval date for three years to give the economy time to recover. The bill now moves to the Senate for final approval.
State Rep. Jay Neal (R-LaFayette), the lead author of the bill, said the legislation is needed to give districts more time to figure out their finances for the coming school year. Neal's daughter is a teacher.
However, state Rep. Mark Hatfield (R-Waycross) said the legislation is unfair to teachers who have already been asked to take furlough days to help cover state revenue shortfalls.
"This is asking too much of our public school teachers," Hatfield said.
He said teachers whose contracts are not renewed will have too little time to find another job under the May 15 deadline.
"When that game of musical chairs stops, there will be a lot of teachers without a seat," he said.
State Rep. Brooks Coleman (R-Duluth), chairman of the House Education Committee, said school administrators and teachers' representatives met on the issue and supported the idea behind the legislation.
"It will be three or four years before we pull out of the budget crisis," Coleman said.
The Professional Association of Georgia Educators preferred the April 15 date, but it understands the need to move to the May 15 deadline, said PAGE lobbyist Tom Wommack.
"It could put some teachers in the position where they have trouble finding a job in such a short time," Wommack said.
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