Have the cuts to education gone too far?

Many of you are on the frontlines and see firsthand what the furloughs and cutbacks are doing to Georgia’s k-12 schools and colleges and universities. Critics contend that there is a lot of fat in education and the cuts are only superficial wounds. (Laura has a great story on this today, which the link above should deliver to you.)

At the Legislature, there was always griping about inflated salaries paid to Regents staff and university brass. (There was also the contention that top university jobs often went to former legislative leaders and folks who have worked for the governor’s staff – these were described as plum jobs that were used as rewards for loyal service, at least according to legislative lore.)

Jim Wooten once told me that the greatest salary inflation in state government was a result of job title inflation, that the state upgraded people’s titles even though their jobs were essentially the same. Is this happening?

Are we cutting bone, as some universities are now insisting? And do we risk ruining our emerging reputation as a strong higher education state?

ALSO…WE NEED INPUT OF CLAYTON PARENTS: AJC staff writer Nancy Badertscher wants to hear from students who attend public schools in Clayton County — and their parents — about the school system’s new uniform policy. Do you like it? Object to it? Do you feel it will alter either academic performance or student conduct? Email Nancy at nbadertscher@ajc.com.

32 comments Add your comment

Ernest

August 11th, 2009
9:29 am

Of course we are cutting to the bone. Wages and benefits still make up the largest part of school budgets. If there is less revenue coming in, the ability to compensate your employees becomes tougher. Georgians still pay far less in property taxes than many districts in the Mid Atlantic and Northeast.

Educators have become accustomed to annual COLAs and/or step increases. Today’s economic climate make it tough to continue this practice. I recall hearing some teachers complain and threaten to quit and go to other school systems when wage freezes were initially discussed. When they looked around and saw everyone was suffering in the same way, many rationalized that it is better to stay in an environment they knew rather than go to one that they did not.

I believe it citizens collectively worked to ensure teachers had better work environments with respect to how discipline is handled, some of the compensation concerns could go away.

Brian

August 11th, 2009
10:33 am

You’re actually depending on a Jim Wooten comment? Seriously?

And, no, the cuts aren’t DEADLY. A little over-dramatized title, don’t you think? I haven’t seen dead bodies as a result of budget cuts yet. Have you?

mdowney

August 11th, 2009
10:46 am

Brian, I can tone down the “deadly,” but the reference is to whether these cuts are killing programs and reputations and whether they will, as someone in Laura’s story suggests, cause students to look elsewhere.
As for Jim Wooten, he and I worked together for years. We argued on most issues but no one knows state government better than Jim. He had print-outs of salaries and titles and showed me how minor upgrades in titles often brought considerable salary increase.

Turd Ferguson

August 11th, 2009
10:54 am

The cuts needed to be made. Schools received thousands of dollars that are simply wasted. We need more cuts.

b

August 11th, 2009
11:38 am

I just read about the cuts that the state colleges and universities are proposing based on 4%, 6% or 8% cuts. There are proposed cuts in positions but the worst is in the reduction of offered classes and an increase in class size. It was suggested that reducing class offerings could may result in a student spending 6 years in school. Our child is in one of Georgia’s state schools and has had to change majors because the classes required to graduate were full and it would require an additional 3 semesters to graduate with that major. Luckily the alternative major was similar and a minor is an option. We do not have the money to continue college beyond the four, perhaps four and a half years it should take to graduate, nor do scholarships extend beyond the four years-both athletic and academic scholarships. We already paid a lot more in fees, room and board for the upcoming year so the scholarships go a lot less further than they did freshman year. I do not know what families are doing who do not have help.

Downtowner

August 11th, 2009
11:48 am

Ernest above is making the common mistake of confusing K-12 teachers with college and university professors. The former may have gotten “step increases,” threatened to go elsewhere when wage freezes were announced, and lobbied for better administrative support for class discipline. But I can tell you as a USG university professor that this is not true for us. Class discipline is not an issue for us. We may have gotten “merit raises,” but these were not at all automatic but rather based upon our publication records…which K-12 educators do not have to worry about. And “threats” do not translate into action.

I expect that further cuts are going to involve the elimination of low-enrollment academic programs as well as much larger classes that are not offered as often as students will need to graduate within four years. These seem to me like cuts with serious consequences.

Buzz

August 11th, 2009
11:56 am

Cuts are getting ridiculous!! 4.5% and then 3 furlough days (2.5% more). Most cuts aren’t student related it’s teacher pay cuts. If student services and programs were being cut parents would be reaising hell, so instead they just cut teacher salaries and if any teacher complains they will just not give that teacher a contract fpr the following year. We hear that more cuts in Jan. are coming!! It’s too much for teachers who are already under paid for what we do!!!!

Jai

August 11th, 2009
11:59 am

It’s one thing for the employees of our various institutions to grit and bear through this difficult time. However, I do not feel that students should be penalized for trying to better themselves. I would be very upset as a student to be delayed from graduation. Also, this will probably discourage alot of students and parents from sending their children to colleges here and for out of state students to come too. I believe that there are other solutions besides the cuts being made to Education.

Jai

August 11th, 2009
12:04 pm

If you want info on Georgia’s finances, what people in the Univeristy and Technical system make , etc… then this website is full of information.

http://www.open.georgia.gov/

Patrick

August 11th, 2009
12:07 pm

CUTTING?!! Lets face it, colleges are a business. But somehow they are charging more and more for a worse and worse product. I know I just paid 3 grand yesterday, now they are going to be cutting back. How about they try to figure out a way to use all my money I paid for tuition to educate us instead of funding our sports programs.

Downtowner

August 11th, 2009
12:25 pm

For Jai: Classes will not be offered as often because now undergraduate and graduate classes are canceled within a month of the beginning of open registration if they are under-enrolled… not filled to capacity. (The combined students’ tuition for the class would not be enough to equal the professor’s salary and the institution’s upkeep.) Summer school is being curtailed and faculty paid less for those classes, so the classes won’t be offered as often. There is a hiring freeze in effect, which means that professors who have retired or who have left won’t be replaced and their classes won’t be taught. Some non-tenure track faculty such as Instructors are already being cut because the departments don’t have the funds to keep them, so their classes don’t get taught.

Students are inevitably affected by university budget cuts.

Yvonne

August 11th, 2009
12:32 pm

While the recession forces everyone to make choices regarding spending, I feel we are heading down a road of no-return for a long time. The more we keep cutting teacher salaries the more money we take out of the economy via consumer spending reductions. The more consumers cut back on spending the more we impact state revenue and small businesses around our state. The cuts that impact salaries need to stop. There are plenty of other areas that can be cut and they need to be across the board and include sports also. There should be no sacred cows.

New Graduate

August 11th, 2009
12:51 pm

Problem with this situation is more people going back to school due to economy and federal government encouragment. Jobs and budget cuts and high tuition costs don’t mix. Sounds like board of regents and high ranking officials of universities needs to be more proactive, like cutting down their own salaries cause this looks like disaster in the making.

Tom

August 11th, 2009
12:52 pm

One of the “unintended” consequences of the “HOPE” allowed the schools to channel monies to build new facilities that now must be maintained. The tax base has not kept up with the faster growth, so therefore in down times, staff must be cut back.

It is really OK. Colleges and Universities are businesses and they should understand the economic realities that every business is facing.

Ed J

August 11th, 2009
12:57 pm

My wife is a dedicated teacher in Fulton County. Unfortunately the recent cuts resulted in three furlough days. Because she cares more about the students than her pay and wants to do the right thing for them, she worked these three days. Many of the teachers in her school also worked these days.

With respect to comparing college professors and teachers, I know many of both. Frankly, there is no comparison whatsover. Teachers work much, much harder than any college professor I know. In fact most of the professors I know don’t really work full time jobs!

Govt. employees live in la-la land

August 11th, 2009
1:23 pm

It galls me that educators who are funded by tax dollars cry when their budgets and compensation are cut in this economy. Take a look around you at the “real world” where the declining revenues of other businesses lead to layoffs and cutbacks on a much more drastic scale. My industry is facing roughly a 25% drop in revenues nationwide compared to the same time two years ago. Many businesses in this industry and other industries have suffered greatly or gone bankrupt. When public education is paid for principally by taxes, it is perfectly logical that education budgets will be cut when tax receipts are significantly down. If you don’t like it, go into private education and let taxpayers voluntarily fund your job. Or better yet, start a small business and learn first-hand the correlation between revenue and salary expenditures.

D M

August 11th, 2009
1:31 pm

I am 37 years old, spent ten years in graduate school earning a masters and then a PhD from elite schools. I teach at Georgia State on a lecturer track due primarily to the decreasing opporunity of tenure track positions. I started two years ago and earn 40k, teaching 10 classes per year and work 60-70 hours a week teaching all year, summer included. I have received no pay raises despite increases in living costs and my benefits have been cut severely during this time. I love the work, but cutting our salary, especially for newer professors, is ridiculous. So for those who feel like college professors are well paid and work very little, please consider that my experience is not out of the norm.

jdawg

August 11th, 2009
1:33 pm

Only in Paulding County do we gut a building, and open a satellite building for Ga. Highlands and Kennesaw…in the middle of a financial meltdown…go figure….150 students this fall….

M

August 11th, 2009
1:35 pm

Education should be a top priority! Instead our fine Governor’s choices to reduce spending in education have cut programs, increased class sizes, decreased student achievement and destroyed morale of educators. Not only do students suffer at the K-12 level, it now trickles into higher education. How many strikes are young people going to have against them? Anyone ever wonder why Georgia is at the bottom of the list when it comes to education? I realize state revenues have decreased but you cannot tell me there is not an abundance of pork barrel legislation that can be eliminated to save education. You can put your money in education now or in prisons later. It is reassuring to know that at least students can Go Fish Georgia. Great choice Sonny! What a moron!

M

August 11th, 2009
1:35 pm

Education should be a top priority! Instead our fine Governor’s choices to reduce spending in education have cut programs, increased class sizes, decreased student achievement and destroyed morale of educators. Not only do students suffer at the K-12 level, it now trickles into higher education. How many strikes are young people going to have against them? Anyone ever wonder why Georgia is at the bottom of the list when it comes to education? I realize state revenues have decreased but you cannot tell me there is not an abundance of pork barrel legislation that can be eliminated to save education. You can put your money in education now or in prisons later. It is reassuring to know that at least students can Go Fish Georgia. Great choice Sonny! What a moron!

Atl Resident

August 11th, 2009
2:41 pm

It’s not the professors who should have the salaries cut first, but it’s the vice presidents, presidents, and some of the high paying college coaches in sports. If anyone really cares about the university like they should, cut some of those costs and address some of those issues. It’s not right to have some coaches make at least $1 million or more in salaries (excluding bonuses) and some professors get their salaries cut who don’t make anything close to that. This is nothing but another issue how sports and entertainment is taking over more than important issues in life. Until that reality is recognized, people will continue to support sports and entertainment first, which has been wrong with this society for many years.

Ernest

August 11th, 2009
4:09 pm

Downtowner, you are correct, I answered the question with respect to K-12 not 13-20. While our national reputation of our K-12 system s suspect, Georgia has a fairly good reputation with respect to our higher education institutions. As others have suggested, we knew it would be a matter of time before they were impacted by the economic downturn we are experiencing.

We must remember that these challenges are not unique to Georgia but impacting schools, K-20, throughout the country. Some states are being hit harder such as Michigan. I believe the ‘emerging reputation’ for higher ed in Georgia will not suffer a huge hit because of this.

A solution for curtailing the cuts? How about a proposal for increasing revenues, i.e. a tax increase? Any takers????

abacus2

August 11th, 2009
4:41 pm

Fayette County teachers have taken a 4.5% pay cut, 3 furlough days before December, and more furloughs coming in 2010. John DeCotis continues to pat himself on the back saying “we haven’t cut any programs!” Cut some programs, John, and pay your teachers. The great test scores will disappear due to increased class sizes, no supply money, and no teachers left to run your programs. Once the economy improves (and it will), Fayette County is going to bleed teachers; you won’t see us for the dust. We’re tired of being treated like refuse.

Gracie

August 11th, 2009
5:46 pm

Not all University employees are professors or highly-paid administrators. Many are staff members who work hard to keep things running in admissions, financial aid, and registrar’s offices, many are custodial staff who work for very low wages and who will be severely affected by furloughs, and many more are the ones who help support all the student services that students need and expect at a university. In this economy, more students are enrolling, not fewer. As a staff member at a university, I will do whatever is necessary to help the state. I just don’t want people to think that all University employees are administrators who make lots and lots of money. Most of us are worker bees.

ScienceTeacher671

August 11th, 2009
7:17 pm

I know several full-time college professors who would make more money, given their degrees and experience, by teaching at the high school level.

However, as the parent of two college students, I don’t know why the colleges need to make cuts – they’ve certainly raised tuition and fees quite a bit this year…

Ann

August 11th, 2009
7:26 pm

Here is another monkey wrench in the works. As many of you know, there is a nursing shortage. Because of the recent cuts in the budget, state service cancelable loans have now been cut. This means that individuals who are planning on entering nursing schools will not be funded if they work for an agency that will provide them with a service cancelable loan. Some students have chosen to work in a critical shortage area in order to obtain these service cancelable loans. Meaning, no nurses to work in the high risk areas. In addition, due to the cuts, there are not enough nursing faculty to meet the demands of the incoming students.
Many nursing faculty are choosing to return to nursing instead of education because of pay reasons. Nurse educators (MSN or Doctorate) in a state system making a 50% less salary than if they worked in the nursing field. What do you think will happen if all the nurse educators leave the university system shutting down nursing programs?

Reality Check

August 11th, 2009
8:26 pm

I know a PhD who teaches biology at a metro public high school. She earns about $70,000. I know a teacher at that same school who teaches English. She earns about $70,000. The librarian at that same school earns even more. My husband lost his job after 25 years 9 months ago. My business has all but dried up since several of my clients have lost their jobs (after many years). Three of my friends who owned their own (formerly successful) businesses have lost their homes and filed bankruptcy. Forgive me if I don’t get out my violin.

abacus2

August 11th, 2009
9:29 pm

Why do you call yourself Reality Check and then cite “facts” that are not reality? In the REAL world, most teachers do not have a Ph.D. and have been teaching less than 15 years. Trust me, they don’t make anywhere near $70,000. You mentioned two extremes. I know teachers whose spouses have lost their jobs and they now are the sole breadwinner. They can barely make their mortgage payment, yet are STILL upset about able to buy supplies for their classrooms and students. We don’t want to hear your violin, but a little empathy might be nice.

Elaine

August 11th, 2009
10:01 pm

(This isn’t specifically about university budget cuts, but it falls in the same general topic area.)

I’ve been teaching in Cobb for twelve years. As the school year begins, the AJC has run quite a few articles about Perdue’s three-furlough-days mandate. As far as I can remember, every article has mentioned that Cobb “chose not to implement the furloughs”, implying that this was magnanimous of the school board, and that teachers here are faring better than the rest of Metro Atlanta. None have pointed out the massive budget cuts back in June, when the board voted for teachers (and all county personnel) to take a 2% pay cut, one furlough day, and a salary step freeze until January — when it will most likely be extended.

Many area teachers have to go without pay for three days? DeKalb teachers won’t receive retirement contributions? As my mother says, “My heart bleeds peanut butter.” Cobb’s pay cuts will decrease my salary by approximately $250 per month. Three furlough days would be less than $100 per month. That will significantly impact my daily life, especially given that I’ve been trying to put more money into savings. I would MUCH rather have the furloughs — and I would really appreciate future AJC articles including this fact, rather than framing the story in such a way that Cobb teachers appear “lucky”.

sav teach

August 11th, 2009
11:08 pm

The fact that there is no outrage from parents in GA about this doesn’t surprise me, since most parents don’t care about their kids. Its NOT about the teachers, its about YOUR children going to school this year with very angry teachers. The message sent by the idiot governor of his heaping manure pile of a state is that cigarettes are MORE important than your children. We aren’t going to raise the taxes to benifit YOUR children, no that’s not important to me. Anywhere else, except maybe florida and south carolina, and this governor would have been recalled, but because people don’t really care he slides by. I’m not upset about the money, heck you morons in Atlanta couldn’t balance a teeter totter let alone a state budget, but the fact that it was done with a week or so left before skewl says a lot. It says…the state does NOT care. I also saw more articles on the upcoming GA/Fl football game than on this topic. You people get what you deserve, and when your kids can’t get into a good school, and NO Univ. of GA is NOT a good school, don’t blame your skewl system, blame your own pathetic self. I like the 3 days off, 3 days less to deal with your kids.

The old quote is true:

If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.

Welcome to the ignorant capital of the world!

Rebel Ace

August 12th, 2009
10:49 am

Hey, MDowney, did you know that Georgia has taken away all of the ‘master teacher pay’ from teachers who had earned that designation? Looks like Georgia will soon slip behind Alabama and Mississippi, huh?

GSU student

August 12th, 2009
7:19 pm

As a student of GSU who regularly uses the library, gym, and other school facilities on weekends, this terrifies and infuriates me. HOW can they consider charging students to use these facilities on weekends? How about an 8% budget cut that reduces the college president’s salary? (his compensation package in 2005 totaled over $600K, earning him a spot as one of the top 5 earning college presidents in the nation) I do not object to the new football program at GSU, but I will indeed object if this is how the university chooses to save money.