Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Democrats Demand Notice for Teachers, Won't Buy R's More Time

Sen. Rebecca Rios, D-23
Assistant Democratic Leader

This week, the Legislature is considering a bill that will move the deadline for notifying teachers whether or not they will be offered a contract for next school year from April 15 to June 15. Senate Democrats, along with teachers themselves, oppose this move because it gives teachers less time to prepare if they do in fact need to find a new job due to education budget cuts.

Republicans are billing the maneuver as a simple administrative issue to avoid "scaring" teachers unnecessarily. We don't know if they've been paying attention, but it's too late. Teachers are already scared. They have been scared since the Republican appropriations chairmen put out their budget options list which included nearly $900 million in cuts to K-12 education. We suspect they are trying to avoid acknowledging that they intend to propose further cuts to K-12 education in FY10. Doing so is not fair to employees that will be affected.

The issue is very simple: the current assumption, absent any further information, is that the FY10 budget will include further cuts to K-12 education. If that is the case, then it is incumbent upon us to make sure that teachers have time to plan. If there will not be further cuts to education, or if the number is less than $900 million, then that should be made known to school districts and the people they employ and serve. If Republican budget negotiators still have no idea what will be done with K-12 education with less than 90 days to go in this fiscal year, we have bigger problems than this bill.

Senate Democrats are standing up with teachers to make sure that they get fair warning if they are going to lose their jobs. If there will be further cuts to K-12 education in Arizona, it needs to be known and it needs to be known now.

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