CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Teachers statewide could see big time pay cuts by next school year, if lawmakers approve a bill to shorten their contracts. The bill would take away five teacher workdays, but bill sponsors say it would keep student instructional time the same.
A local group started a campaign against the measure. Patrick Hayes, an elementary school teacher and member of Charleston Teacher Alliance, or CTA for short, is concerned about the proposed house bill that will shorten his contract.
"It's of course very upsetting to think about. The furlough days we've already had so far have had a major impact on my family's finances. Right now everything is tight. I worked three jobs last spring," Hayes said.
Sponsors of House Bill 3245 say they hope it will save the state money by: shortening teacher contracts by five days, and giving school districts the flexibility of choosing a four-day school week as opposed to the current five-day week.
Several CTA members are campaigning against this bill. Right now a letter is being sent around by email. The CTA is voicing its concerns and encouraging teachers and parents to write or call their state senators and representatives.
Bill co-sponsor Representative Dan Cooper, a Republican from Anderson and Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee says, "The only way to get any savings is to shorten contracts."
He says to deal with the state's projected $800-million budget shortfall, the bulk of cuts have to come from education, Medicaid, and the prison system, which he says makes up 75% of the state's total budget.
Hayes says a high quality education for South Carolina students, should not suffer to make up the deficit.
"It's very discouraging. As a professional, it makes me question whether my work is valued, or seen as expendable," Hayes said.
Hayes says children will suffer as well under the proposed bill, if districts move to four-day school weeks. He says that kids are not going to be as effective with that time if it's squeezed into a longer school day. He says that when they leave school at 3 p.m., they do not have much left in the tank.
Bill sponsors say instructional hours for students would remain the same, even if school weeks were shortened to four days. School districts would have to get approval from the State Department of Education before moving to four day weeks, according to the bill. Right now this bill is in the House Education and Public Works Committee.