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Friday, February 19, 2010 - 3:11pm

McDuffie County Lays Off Teachers

Schools in Georgia have faced deep budget cuts in the past two years and expect more to happen next fiscal year. That means teacher layoffs are looking increasingly possible in Georgia schools, for the first time in more than two decades.

School boards across Georgia say laying off teachers would be a last resort. But in McDuffie County, it's already happening. The school board is terminating the jobs of about 30-35 employees, including several teachers. Board members and the superintendent there say they're letting the employees know now so they can have several months to look for other jobs.

"We've made cuts everywhere," says Georgia Hobbs, a McDuffie County school board member. "You've already cut field trips. You've cut back on supplies. You've asked people to conserve energy. So what else can you do?"

Across the state, school boards are taking a hard look at their "reduction in force" plans. The plans, or "RIFS," outline the procedures each board follows in determining which teachers and employees would lose their jobs. In some cases, school superintendents also want more flexibility in determining who should stay and who should go.

"We think we're really starting now to do real harm to the education process, and the reduction in force --- particularly of teachers -- is certainly a symptom of that kind of harm," says Tim Callahan, a spokesman for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators.

Personnel costs, such as salaries and benefits, make up the bulk of school budgets.