Saturday, May 1, 2004

Many worries for Ky. teachers


Some predicting pinch may come

By Karen Gutierrez
The Cincinnati Enquirer

These are tense times for Northern Kentucky teachers.

This week, some learned their contracts might not be renewed for next year, because of budget cuts, drops in student enrollment or other issues. Friday was the deadline for superintendents to inform them of their status.

In addition, the governor's spending plan for next year requires teachers to pay more for health insurance plans that provide less coverage. Already, Northern Kentucky teacher salaries lag behind those for Southwest Ohio.

Then there's the No Child Left Behind Act. By 2005, educators nationwide must prove they are "highly qualified" by passing a test in their subject area or meeting other standards set by their states. This will be difficult for veterans who got certified before Kentucky started giving such tests, says Bev Johnson, a teacher at Twenhofel Middle School in Independence.

"These are very trying times," Johnson said. "I think Kentucky is going to find itself in a very serious teacher shortage, because they're not going to be able to afford to teach."

The layoff notices that went out this week to untenured teachers - those with fewer than four years at a school - happen every year. If districts are going to cut staff, they must notify employees by April 30. Kenton County schools recently sent pink slips to 93 teachers, freeing them to look for other jobs. Some were hired under limited grants and knew their jobs would end, Deputy Superintendent Tim Hanner said. Some didn't meet deadlines for getting the proper certification. And more teachers than usual were laid off because of budget uncertainties.

The General Assembly this spring could not agree on a budget, and the governor's temporary spending plan - still subject to change - would increase school funding by only $10 per student, per year.

"It is very concerning to us," Hanner said. "We're building budgets based on unknowns, and there are people's livelihoods that depend on this."

This year, districts have had to be even more conservative than usual, Dayton schools Superintendent Gary Rye says. Over the last five years, Rye said he has eliminated 24 jobs, which allowed him to avoid layoffs this year.

But other districts have had to continue cutting. The Ludlow school system, for instance, issued pink slips to one teacher and three classroom aides this week.

"It's a very painful process for all involved," Superintendent Elizabeth Grause said Friday.

One of the laid-off aides ran an alternative program for students facing suspension. Instead of leaving school grounds, the students were able to complete schoolwork under the aide's supervision.

Grause said that if she can't find the money to rehire that aide, suspensions may go up next year.

E-mail kgutierrez@enquirer.com




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