A proposal to impose a two-day furlough on district employees next year that came to light at a legislative committee hearing on Tuesday received criticism from the city’s teachers union and education advocates.
Business administrator Daisy Ayala told the committee the district may potentially impose a furlough on “everyone in the district” to balance its budget next year. The details of the furlough were scant except that it would be a two-day furlough.
District spokeswoman Terry Corallo said it’s just one of a list of items the district is looking at to address “future fiscal challenges.” She said details will be forthcoming once the school board discusses the furlough proposal.
Ayala’s mention of furlough caught many by surprise including members of the Paterson Education Association, the teachers union.
John McEntee, president of the teachers union, said members have expressed “outrage” over the proposal. “It’s a violation of our contract,” he said on Wednesday morning. He said the proposal would force teachers to take a two-day pay cut. Work five days and get paid for three days, he said.
McEntee called the proposal “bizarre” and thought it did not fit with the standard definition of furlough where employees are temporary put on unpaid leave to save money. The union president, who opposes the furlough proposal, said it will further undermine morale in the district.
Linda Reid, head of the Parent Educating Organizing Council of Paterson, said, “You expect them to come to work and not get paid?”
“I think it’s insane,” said Reid.
The state-operated district laid off more than 360 employees at the end of the last school year to balance its budget. The district faces an escalating $186 million deficit by 2019, according to a projection conducted by the public schools’ auditing firm.
“We’re being strangled financially,” said school board president Jonathan Hodges. He said the district has to take these measures as the state continues to underfund local schools.
The school board president said the proposal was not discussed with the nine-member board of education. He said without these cost savings measures the district may end up laying off even more employees.
The business administrator told the committee it’s been suggested that a two-day furlough ought to be put in place for next year, said a number of people who attended the hearing. She did not say the district is actually considering it or intends on imposing a furlough on its more than 2,500 teachers.
“I don’t think it’s going to happen. I don’t think it should happen. I don’t think it’s fair to ask our educators to work without being paid,” said Rosie Grant, executive director at the Paterson Education Fund, an advocacy. If we were fully funded, we would have the money to pay and hire all the teachers we need. And put in place all the programs we need, she said.
“The thought of a furlough has to be one of the most insulting things in the district,” said assemblyman Benjie Wimberly, who represents the legislative district that includes Paterson, at the hearing.
Wimberly said the state has been in control of local finances for the past 24 years squarely placing the blame for the district’s financial woes on the state’s management of the public schools.
“I’m disappointed the state of New Jersey for 24 years has allowed this to fester in the city of Paterson,” said assemblywoman Sheila Oliver of Essex County at the hearing.