THOMSON - Effects of the struggling economy are knocking on the doors of McDuffie County classrooms.
Because of a statewide budget shortfall, Georgia has cut its funding of school systems by 2.5 percent, which amounts to a $600,000 cut for McDuffie County's upcoming school year. Superintendent Ed Grisham informed the Board of Education Thursday night that six and a half certified teaching positions will be eliminated to make up half of the difference, with the other half coming from reserve funds.
Board Chairman Tommy Phelps is displeased at the cuts. "Well, it's extremely hard when you're one of the more rural systems," he said.
"I understand the state's going through tough budgetary times and all, but some of the adjustments I feel like they might make some cuts in some other areas that would be a little less painful on some rural counties."
The eliminated teaching positions will mean larger class sizes for some schools, as well as the elimination of at least one remedial education class. Students previously in the class will be integrated into regular classes as a result.
McDuffie County is also anxiously awaiting the results of the current state legislative session, where a bill to freeze the current maximum class size at 22 students is under consideration. Under the current plan, next year the maximum class size would lower to 18. But because of the tough economic times, some legislators feel that the number should remain at 22.
If the new legislation to freeze class size at 22 fails, McDuffie County will be forced to hire additional teachers despite the budget cuts. "You never hit exactly on that number, and we'll have two schools where we're projected to have 19 people per class," said Dr. Grisham.
Phelps is disappointed at the mixed signals legislature seems to be giving school systems. "We're not opposed to reducing class seizes, but we feel like the timing of it with the state in the kind of recession it's in, it would be better to put it off until this economy has rebounded a little bit," he said.
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