He went on to call the proposal “completely irresponsible” as well as “financial malpractice.”
“I think, without question, we can say we are in deficit financing and we’ve been in deficit financing in this school system for a few years now, and just because our fund balance maybe came out a little better this year than what we expected, I don’t think we should take this typical spend-the-people’s-money mentality and just say ‘OK, we now we have $800,000 to $900,000 we can pull out of our reserve ...,’” Shultz said during the work session.
Harper confirmed the cost for two additional classroom days would be between $800,000 and $900,000.
“... All of us as a board have been spoken to individually ... and we’ve all been told that next year is going to be worse than this year, and next year we may be dealing with more real staff cuts than we can handle through the attrition process. That is a fact,” Shultz said. “I can’t for the life of me understand why this board would vote to do something that’s going to put nine to 15 more teachers at jeopardy because [that amount of money is] essentially what this is.”
He said two days of additional work would equate to between $30 and $40 additional pay a month for teachers, or about $300 to $400 for the year.
“Who would want that money if they knew it would put their job at risk? It’s just not worth it,” Shultz said. “I’d much rather see us take that money, save it for next year, look at what our real costs are so when these unknown expenses that we don’t know [the cost of] and use this money in a way that makes more sense.”
The state operates on a 180-day calendar for public schools, but those 180 instructional days can be met by having less than 180 calendar days if the school days run longer. Harper’s proposal would bring the calendar to 177 instructional days up from 175, as established in the calendar previously approved by the board this summer.
Board member Anna Sullivan said she felt the proposal to add two additional days would have positive impacts in the classroom.
“... When you get two full days, that’s much different for having concentrated time for teaching students as opposed to having five minutes tacked on in the morning and five minutes in the afternoons,” Sullivan said. “For my children and their learning and being able to get that concentrated classroom time, having two full days as succinct days makes a big difference in gains as opposed to little dribs and drabs along the way.”
Harper said the funding for the proposal would come from the budget’s general fund. Chief Financial Officer Todd Hooper said this year’s budget has more than a $15 million balance, with the state urging districts to maintain a balance of at least $10 million.
“The primary decision with regard to me making that [proposal] was to see our kids have more instructional time. There was no political move behind it at all,” Harper said. “The little time we have at the end of the day is not used as effectively as the child being in the classroom for a 50-minute period and 175 just isn’t enough time.”
Harper continued, “Our enrollment has increased by 500 [students] since day one, so for three days, there were almost 500 students who weren’t here. And you tack that on to the day before Christmas [break] and how much instruction time is going on there? I tried to find days that were going on during the year that would reduce staff days where we could have good, strong, legitimate instruction going on because that’s why we are doing what we’re doing.”
Harper reported the system has between 1,200 and 1,300 certified employees and overall the system issues between 2,300 and 2,400 paychecks a month for all employees. He reported the system, as of Monday, has 13,865 students.
In other board news, the board held a special called meeting Monday and voted to maintain the current millage rate. For more news from the Bartow County Board of Education, read The Daily Tribune News.