AJC business writer Micheal Kanell looks at teacher layoffs and furloughs through a wide angle lens in a good Sunday story that questions the impact on the larger economy.
He also raises the issue of the long-term impact of the recession on education and whether it is deterring would-be teachers from the profession and pushing them into other fields.
I often wonder who will still be standing when all this is over. I have seen friends who planned to teach forever resign because of the combination of salary cuts and increased pressure to reach artificial and, they say, impossible test score targets.
The broad outlines of the crisis are clear: Last fall, Georgia had 117,560 certified teachers, according to the state Department of Education. But in classrooms this coming school year, there may be more than 8,000 fewer teachers.
Those still on the job will face shrinking paychecks as school districts mandate furlough days and slash pay.
That won’t spin the economy back into recession, but it’s enough to hurt: Because of government cuts, roughly 30,000 jobs will be lost, including those of teachers, said Mark Vitner, senior economist for Wells Fargo.
“I would say that we are looking for combined state and local budget cuts of around $900 million over the next year,” he said. “The number of job losses might be smaller than this because of furloughs and reductions in hours.”
Those cuts will reduce the state’s growth by about a half-percentage point from what it would otherwise be, he said.
Unlike the federal government, both state and local entities must balance their budgets. With the economy still struggling, many households hurting and tax revenues weak, they face an impossible choice, said Jeff Humphreys, director of the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia.
“You either have to raise taxes or you have to cut,” he said. “It is not that cutting doesn’t hurt the economy, but it doesn’t necessarily hurt any more than raising taxes. The bottom line is that government will be restraining Georgia’s economic recovery.”
Ordinarily, teachers might seem to be among the work force’s luckier ones, their paychecks often higher than the median income in the state. And it was only a few years ago that Georgia had a teacher shortage and people in other professions were being recruited to fill the void.
Beginning teachers typically start at about $33,000 a year. But with decades of service, advanced degrees and national board certification, a teacher could aspire to annual pay of $80,000. The most recent Census Bureau report shows the state’s median household income is slightly above $50,000.
That ceiling has dropped. National board-certified teachers have long received a 10 percent salary supplement, but that was cut in half last year. This year, lawmakers ended the supplement entirely.
There are many two-teacher families who have been able to combine earning power for a decent living. Of course, when cuts come, those households take a double hit.
hese job and pay cuts might have an even harsher long-term impact.For instance, if they damage education and the quality of Georgia’s work force, the cuts would undermine the state’s economic development.
They could also be reshaping the labor market in ways that are, at least for now, not measurable.
Some young teachers or teachers-to-be will look to other careers. Some laid-off teachers will become stay-at-home parents. Some will seek second jobs or even full-time work in other fields — especially if the market improves.
And some will stay in the schools, while squeezing every penny.