Clayton schools: Picking its teachers’ pockets to reduce its deficit?

Clayton teachers have been asking that I post a blog about their disappearing pay — here one minute, gone the next.

The story has changed over the last week, but here is a quick summation: Clayton required teachers and other contract employees to give back part of their salary to deal with a $49 million budget deficit. But last week a federal judge approved a temporary restraining order stopping Clayton from forcing contract employees to repay part of their salary.

This week the judge lifted the restraining order, enabling the district to go forward with its plan. But he also said that employees might be able to regain their money by filing breach of contract complaints against Clayton schools.

According to the AJC, the school board approved five furlough days in April for the 2010-11 school year to shore up the district’s budget. But in an unusual move, four of those days were billed retroactively, with contract employees required to repay money or have it subtracted from their paychecks.

A teacher on the blog said: Let’s talk about how one district can give its teachers a bonus and then want it back. When will the AJC take a deeper look into the chaos happening in Clayton County? Teacher morale is at an all-time low, people are being furloughed or losing their jobs.

As to the salary grab, the AJC reports:

Judge Richard Story lifted the temporary restraining order he imposed against the district late last week. Story is a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. The decision is the latest volley between the district and its employees over how to resolve the nagging budget deficit.

“We’re somewhat disappointed given the court entered the temporary restraining order on Friday, but the case is far from over. We’re not out of the fight yet,” said Blake Andrews whose Buckhead law firm is one of three Atlanta law firms representing Clayton teachers Linda Plummer and Janice Scott. The teachers filed a class-action lawsuit against the district last week. Attempts to reach the district’s attorney, Randy Farmer, were unsuccessful.

Teachers argue the district’s salary reduction plan, which asks them to give back pay, violates their constitutional rights.

“It’s fairly unusual for a retroactive furlough,” said Alan Hamilton, an attorney with Shiver Hamilton, LLC, a Midtown Atlanta law firm also representing the teachers. “The contracts the teachers signed may allow the district to declare a furlough prospectively, but not to go back and take money back. You go back and take it and teachers have trouble paying their bills and mortgages. They can face all sorts of negative financial consequences.”

In his decision to lift the restraining order, Story said employees could likely retrieve their money by filing breach of contract complaints against the school district.

The amount of money being deducted is roughly one week’s pay.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

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205 comments Add your comment

Additionally...

June 2nd, 2011
6:47 am

The pay scale for 2011-2012 reflects an across the board cut in salaries for staff ranging from several hundred to several thousand dollars cut per teacher. That, on top of an already reduced paycheck for 185 days instead of 190 days, AND furlough money being taken out, will be a financial hardship for the employees. And then of course there is the total lack of respect shown to teachers from school level and central office level administrators. And the school board, with a few exceptions, thinks this is right?

zoe

June 2nd, 2011
6:49 am

You probably won’t get many of us responding (I don’t think) until later in the day. We have our last day of EdJobs training today and they are monitoring our attendance and very closely. We aren’t even supposed to have our computers on for most of the training. I can tell you, they still haven’t announced officially where all the principals and APs will be this year, they are changing the salary scale so that we don’t get our step raises since they are lowering the county supplement portion of our salary (I’d like to point out almost all the other counties in the state are making sure the teachers at least get a step raise to make up for the huge increases in healthcare), this will make the third year in a row without any kind of raise and is in fact a salary decrease since we had 10 furlough days. The “bonus” came from stimulus money and apparently had to be spent or sent back to the federal government. They didn’t want to give it to us to begin with and only did so because they had to. Using the snow days as furlough days is just a shell game, allowing them to keep that stimulus money. We do owe the system those 4 days, they could have scheduled them after the EdJobs and then watched who showed up and done “leave without pay,” but I think most of us would have showed up and called their bluff and the system wouldn’t have gotten their money back. There are a lot of shady things going on with this money, I’m amazed that during the school year we didn’t even paper at the end of the year, but they have gone all out buying supplies for this training.

John Adams

June 2nd, 2011
6:59 am

Regardless of whether it is legal, this is definitely NOT the right way to treat your teachers. Retroactive furlough days will indeed have a devastating effect on employee morale, especially at this late date. It would have been better for Clayton to cope with their budget miscalculation by absorbing the five days using their general fund and/or reserves for this year, and then to recoup the money going forward in the 2011-2012 budget.

thunderstruck

June 2nd, 2011
7:29 am

The system still wants four days? Call in sick!

Clayton Taxpayer

June 2nd, 2011
7:38 am

So let me get this straight. The judge thinks it’ll be better for thousands of teachers to file breach-of-contract suits in Clayton County?… While we’re talking about wasting taxpayers’ money, look into the magic Ponzi scheme whereby bullying kids into beging their parents for $10 yo-yos will increase both test scores and character.

Rural High School Teacher

June 2nd, 2011
7:39 am

At what point are local districts like Clayton violating the “minimum base salary” requirement? Our district has also cut 10 days plus a 2% cut of our state salary (Our highest local teacher supplement is $2200. per year) – The contracts we signed make no mention of days worked or even any dollar amounts – Is this a common practice across the state?

Happy Feet

June 2nd, 2011
7:43 am

This is indicative of the poor leadership of Ed Heatley. There is never a plan; just off the cuff stuff. Being that he has never been a building level school administrator explains his lack of experience in this job. When Heatley leaves, he needs to take Nupes Doug Hendrix and Anthony Smith with him. They have too been cancer to our school district. They throw rocks and hide their hands. They slither on the backs of females to make decisions. Smith can’t seem to make decisions without reaching back to his Mundy’s Mill High female short fro sister to do his dirty work. What’s up with that anyway? As I watch from within MMHS, it turns my stomach to see them in action. The devastation ruins people lives. In Clayton, we are mistreating teachers by furloughing and hoeing. Come on school board. Open your eyes and do the job you were elected to do.

Teacher Reader

June 2nd, 2011
7:48 am

@ zoe DeKalb teachers haven’t had step increases for four years. They do not get Social Security and had the board annuity taken away as well, which is in place of social security. They have also had to deal with furlough days.

The biggest problem with teaching in Georgia, are the contracts that a teacher signs. A teacher’s license can be pulled from them for leaving for a better job, but when there are financial changes promised by the BOE there are no consequences.

The problem that I see is that too many of the school districts put the cart before the horse with the money that they received this year. Too many districts are bloated in places in administration, secretaries, and other departments. This is where the cuts should be made first. Until districts are running a mean, lean program, they need to leave teachers alone. I can see freezing wages for a year, but having done this three and four years, with larger class sizes and more demands of paper work and such does not make an intelligent young person want to get into teaching or stay once they get in.

South GA Retiree

June 2nd, 2011
7:49 am

The Clayton school system needs to reserve money to pay these teachers back when the courts rule in their favor. It might take time, but the teachers will win, no doubt, and both sides will lose lots of money in attorney fees. Making up the rules and changing the contract after-the-fact is not the way to operate any institution. Other school systems need to take note and not make the same mistake. Financial oversight is the key in avoiding this kind of disaster.

catlady

June 2nd, 2011
7:52 am

Well, in the 2008–2009 school year I lost about 1200$ after I signed a legally binding (on me) contract. Then, 2010-11, I lost $4500. Next year, it appears that counting everything, I will be down over $6000. Retroactive pay decreases ARE illegal, and I am sure the ClayCo teachers are tired of hearing they need to “do it for the kids” and “at least you have a job” That is what they are throwing at us.

If the judge rules it pemissable, the CO staff making over $75000 (the approximate amount a PhD level, 30 years of experience teacher makes) should be “touched” for whatever additional percentage they make. So, for example, if they make $150000, they should lose 2x the salary per day based on how many days the teachers are being paid for (Not their smaller proportion because they work 220-or whatever-days.) So, in the above example, they might lose about 825 per day, times 2 times 4. Let EVERYONE do it “for the kids”, $6,600.

Dr NO

June 2nd, 2011
7:54 am

This is so funny. Clayton County, once a fairly decent place to live and attend school has spiraled slowly but surely into the toilet. LMAO!!

“Its our turn now”

Born & Raised in Clayton

June 2nd, 2011
8:00 am

Two words: “Inept Leadership” and i do use the term leadership very loosely

KMM

June 2nd, 2011
8:09 am

What am I missing here? What the heck is a “retroactive furlough”? Furlough days are DAYS OFF WITHOUT PAY. If you worked the day and are not getting paid, you can call it a salary cut, a pay cut, work without pay, whatever; but not a furlough.

Simba the lion

June 2nd, 2011
8:09 am

Idiots……. selfish…….self centered……..ignorant….. Teachers in Clayton just don’t get it!!!!!!!!!The state mandates that the budget be balanced ……If the money from furlough or Edjobs money isn’t returned do the teachers realize that teachers will lose their jobs!!!! people in Clayton don’t see the real picture!!! That BOE and superintendent have a fudiciary responsibility to balance the budget. I heard a teacher had the nerve to even ask for a pay raise.. Wake up!!!!!! Look around!!!!!! We are in a financial crisis in Ga, and nationally. I have no job now because of stupid selfish people that want more and more !!!! These people need to realized times are hard and they haven’t seen nothing yet…… bB HAPPY TO HAVE A jobbbbbb!!!!!!! THEY ARE NOT PROMISED TO YOU…

Simba the lion

June 2nd, 2011
8:13 am

@ jOHN aDAMS there is no reserve do your homework!!!! i hate people that talk trash and don”t know nothing!!!!

Simba the lion

June 2nd, 2011
8:20 am

@ cLAYTON tAXPAYER ITS NOT THE jUDGE THAT IS WRONG……. ITS THE HAND FULL OF SELFISH TEACHERS THAT DON’T SEE THE BIG PICTURE!!!!!! cLAYTON HAS nO MONEY ITS DOWN TO THE BONE!!

Simba the lion

June 2nd, 2011
8:25 am

DR. nO YOU, DON’T KNOW SQUAT!!!!!! cLAYTON ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE IS THRIVING… dID YOU SEE OUR TEST SCORE RESULTS AND GRADUATION RATES gET YOUR INFO STRAIGHT !!! iTS SAD YOU BAD MOUTHING A BUILDING AND IN SOME AREAS EXCELLING !!!!! knOW WHAT YOU know!!!!!!!!! DR. NO!

Simba the lion

June 2nd, 2011
8:26 am

Typo …bad mouthing a “district” if its that bad get thwe hell out of Clayton ..owww the other counties are on the decline lmao…..lol

Happy Feet

June 2nd, 2011
8:27 am

@Simba the Lion. Now what would Mufasa say? I think you, oops, Heatley, needs to return the $30,000 bonus he received. This could surely save a job. Practice what you preach! If decisions were driven based on what’s in the best interest of the district opposed to who is sleeping with whom, we’d be in much better shape. Stop making emotional decisions and MAN UP!

Happy Feet

June 2nd, 2011
8:31 am

If things are so bad, why were two new executive director positions vacancies posted after the budget cut proposal was submitted? I thought the district was broke. And these are not Race To The Top jobs either. Let’s be better stewards of local funds.

Jerry Eads

June 2nd, 2011
8:33 am

I trust that the reductions are being taken out of the portion of the local salary scale that is local contribution. If it’s a reduction below the state scale – supplied from state taxes – that may be an interesting issue in which the state superintendent, the governor and the legislature might be interested. Have your reporters checked that, Maureen? The state scales 2003-2012 are at http://www.doe.k12.ga.us/fbo_budget.aspx

tim

June 2nd, 2011
8:35 am

Say what? Repay Money? This is a perfect example of a school system who hasn’t got a clue.
Can anyone name a company who has asked their employees to return their pay? Don’t think you can……
Shame on the school system for even thinking about it……much less demanding it.

Make you wonder…..and makes you mad!!

Simba the lion

June 2nd, 2011
8:37 am

You are so on point with one thing money has to return to the district to keep more money coming ….. and for the district to thrive….they all have to expect…..something…..

Dr NO

June 2nd, 2011
8:39 am

Simba the lion

June 2nd, 2011
8:25 am

LOL…Dr NO KNOWS my friend. Dr NO knows.

CC is a dump with govt full of liars, thieves and incompentents. THAT A FACT!

Ozzy

June 2nd, 2011
8:42 am

It’s amazing anyone wants to be a teacher. Especially in Clayton County.

Mikey D

June 2nd, 2011
8:42 am

@Maureen
Do you think the teachers would have a legal leg to stand on if they filed a breach of contract suit? I don’t know about Clayton, but in my district we were forced to sign contracts that did not specify either a salary or a number of days worked. It simply said that teachers had a job for a year, but that the district could choose to pay whatever it wanted. When teachers asked/complained about it, they were told that if they didn’t like it, they didn’t have to sign it. If Clayton teachers signed similar contracts without a salary or work-day requirement listed, can they really claim that the contract was violated? It seems like the county could simply argue that the contract doesn’t list what they’ll be paid and therefore couldn’t have been breached…

Happy Feet

June 2nd, 2011
8:44 am

During the inclement weather days that have now been identified as furlough days, employees received daily phone calls announcing that the district was closed due to inclement weather. There were no jobs to report to. Now you want to deduct our pay for that? Furthermore, we have already been docked five days by moving from 190 to 185 work year. So now we have in fact been cut 10 days.

Tony

June 2nd, 2011
8:46 am

While it is very easy to focus the blame on Clayton county schools, the real blame should be placed squarely upon the backs of our state’s leaders. For the last nine years they have withheld billions of dollars in education funding from school districts. This has forced the districts to take draconian steps such as the ones described here. Nearly every district in Georgia has withheld pay from teachers. They have all cut administrative positions and trimmed budgets. The most recent “austerity cuts” have forced most districts to cut teachers even more.

I’m not saying that some of the blame for the Clayton situation does not rest with their leaders, but our state government is shortchanging children all over Georgia. They are doing this while at the same time continuing to hand out tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy.

bob leblah

June 2nd, 2011
8:49 am

Again my suggestion would probably be cheapest in the long-run. Throw Clayton County into space like a frisbee.

ClaytonCountyHSTeacher

June 2nd, 2011
8:54 am

For those that say for us to be happy to just have a job–what a joke. Does having a ‘job’ make it okay for the employer to treat the employee any old kind of way. While our pay, and work calendar has been reduced, there has been no change to the expectations we’re expected to meet.

While a teacher may leave (many have, and many are this year), the ultimate losers are the kids. I will speak for myself. Having this continual stress and financial hardship makes it harder to expend effort to teach my kids. While it sounds horrible, I will admit I was in self-preservation mode for the last 6 weeks of the year. If talented, intelligent teachers leave, who will be left to help our kids. Honestly, the kids are the ONLY reason I stay, but it gets harder and harder EVERY YEAR.

As mentioned earlier, the EdJobs days are a joke, that’s why they won’t allow us to use sick leave. They know if we were allowed to use them, NO ONE would be here. These days are a JOKE.

God don’t like ugly. Who has ever heard of an employer paying money then taking it back? Would you want that to happen to you? What would they have done if we did NOT have those snow days? How would they have balanced the budget then?

Simba the lion

June 2nd, 2011
8:58 am

Tony !!!!!!! Thank you!!!!! You are so right!!!!!Thank you.. State legislation and state officials are making local boards of ed and superintendents look real bad….

middleschoolteacher

June 2nd, 2011
9:00 am

@Tony, You are a sane voice in the midst of insanity in school funding.

Simba the lion

June 2nd, 2011
9:07 am

@ ClaytonCountyHSTeacher
I am a teacher from Fulton but i leave in Clayton ….. ingrates is what I call you and educators like you … This is the first time all these districts are in an overwhelming this is the first time the dept of ed can’t solve the financial woes of the states its the first time the unemployment rate has been this high it the first time gas is 4 .00 plus so yeah these are trying times and selfish educators like you need to be in my shoes You think you got hardships!!!!!!!! See the rtype of stress no check brings you……

Simba the lion

June 2nd, 2011
9:08 am

@ ClaytonCountyHSTeacher
Excuse me I was a teacher in Fulton County! Thanks a million!

Simba the lion

June 2nd, 2011
9:09 am

@ ClaytonCountyHSTeacher You’re a lie you are there because you recieve a paycheck!!!!! Your profession puts you in front of children regardless….. Lay offs is the way they would handle no snow days…. reduced personnel you’ve seen the pie charts as to how general fund money is spent SALARIES>>>>>>>>>> DAMN!!!!!Go down town to the unemployment office and just stand there for 10 minutes!!!!I want your job!!!!

UGA Teacner

June 2nd, 2011
9:16 am

@ simba the lion…. for an educator, your grammar and spelling is horrible. Your sentences do not make any sense. I think if I were you, I’d just be quiet.

bob leblah

June 2nd, 2011
9:16 am

Interesting how in failing school districts people say the failure is always money. here are the facts (data from 2006)

Cobb County public schools spend $9,607 per student. Cobb Counties funding is over 50% local money.

Clayton County spends $9851 per student. Clayton is funded mostly by federal and state monies.

Cobb County’s schools perform much better than Clayton’s. Where is all this money your missing?

UGA Teacner

June 2nd, 2011
9:17 am

.. is should be are… :)

Simba the lion

June 2nd, 2011
9:17 am

@ TIM do you have a job!!!!!!! All this is new for this state, nation so many things that we are not use to are happening…. to include creative budget balancing, layoff working from home and canabalism.lol

Simba the lion

June 2nd, 2011
9:19 am

You are so right, I’m in such a desperate attempt to get my thoughts out I did mispell and create poor sentence structure . Excuse me oh Mighty!!!!!! But you get my point…

bob leblah

June 2nd, 2011
9:20 am

@Simba – you were a school teacher “You’re a lie”.. in terms of school problems maybe we should start there.

FYI- in the above the statistics I posted are more recent 2006, my source was education.com

bob leblah

June 2nd, 2011
9:22 am

Oh @Simba.. by the way fulton spends $10,167 per student for that high quality education you’re providing.

Dr NO

June 2nd, 2011
9:23 am

ClaytonCountyHSTeacher

June 2nd, 2011
8:54 am

With your obvious qualifications there are no doubt any number of employers that would be more suitable for you.

Cant stand the heat get out of the kitchen.

Dr NO

June 2nd, 2011
9:25 am

“Tony !!!!!!! Thank you!!!!! You are so right!!!!!Thank you.. State legislation and state officials are making local boards of ed and superintendents look real bad….”

Oh absolutely. In Clayton County “Passing the buck” is just a way of doing business.

Echo

June 2nd, 2011
9:30 am

Simba sounds like an county level administrator, can’t put together a coherent sentence and tries to justify screwing over teachers using the excuse of “budgeting”. There is a lot of fat at the top…cut it first!
BTW, this isn’t the first time unemployment has been around 10% or gas at $4.

bob leblah

June 2nd, 2011
9:30 am

I will say this, retroactive furloughs are ridiculous. Collecting the money will probably take more effort than its worth, why not give them a single furlough day per month for 5 mos. However, the idea that money is always the answer to fix a school district is bogus. There are cases where money was thrown at bad schools and it resulted in no improvement. The most important thing in an education is having respect for education, educators and their authority. If parents don’t instill this in children, they are lost causes.

teacher

June 2nd, 2011
9:31 am

Is Simba Ed Heatleys alias….

Simba the lion

June 2nd, 2011
9:31 am

Anyone of you haysayers got a solution to the problem……. Clayton needs money…. to balance the budget What should they do?

Please at least know what has been done already prior to answering the question…..I’m waiting…….

bob leblah

June 2nd, 2011
9:33 am

They are balancing the budget, thats what the furlough is. If a teacher in Clayton doesn’t like it, they can find a new job. If you don’t like your leadership, get rid of him. Why don’t you go beg for moeny from Obama. I’m sure he’d get the printing press going.

Simba the lion

June 2nd, 2011
9:35 am

Never met him…. I just a educator that wished he had an answer… I’d work in Clayton , I live in Clayton … heck I’d work anywhere…Apps in all metro districts expecting calls as we speak… -