Washington Teachers Union president William Simons said yesterday that he supports a proposal to open District of Columbia public schools on time in September and "run until the money runs out." This would be an alternative to a worker furlough -- a plan that must be acted on soon by the Board of Education to provide time for employs to be notified according to board rules.
School Board members John Warren (Ward 6) and R. Calvin Lockridge (Ward 8) supported the idea of maintaining the school system's normal operating and spending levels and, in Lockridge's words, "go ahead as though we don't have to address the furlough."
The Board approved a six-day, cost-cutting teacher furlough June 19 and met Tuesday night, ostensibly to approve details and implementation procedures recommended by School Superintendent Floretta D. McKenzie. But no action was taken on the furlough plan when the discussion turned to the Warren -- Lockridge proposal. The meeting ended abruptly after the departure of two disgruntled board members.
Action on the furlough plan this week is crucial. The first stage, under McKenzie's proposal, would begin Aug. 27, and board rules call for a 30-day notice to workers prior to a furlough. Yesterday board officials were scrambling to set up a date and hoped a meeting could be set for Friday.
No action was taken on the Warren -- Lockridge proposal, and neither member asked that it be brought to a vote.
The school system has a $4.8 million projected deficit for fiscal year 1981, which ends Sept. 30. If money is spent until it runs out, schools would close during the last week of September, but would re-open Oct. 1 when the new fiscal year begins.
"I am never going to vote to let this system run out of money," board member Frank Smith Jr. (Ward 1) said. Smith and member Nathaniel Bush (Ward 7) stormed out of the meeting Tuesday in protest, leaving the board without a quorum and unable to take any action. "We don't drive our cars like that; we don't let them run out of gas," Smith said.
The suggestion to keep the schools open as long as the money holds out would not necessarily rule out a furlough, according to board president Eugene Kinlow. "I think we ought to follow both [plans] simultaneously" . . . Kinlow said.
Teachers and administrators would be furloughed for six days under the superintendent's plan, and other school employes would be put on unpaid leave for four days at a total savings of $3.8 million. The board also plans to cut $1 million "budgeted but unobligated" funds for supplies and maintenance.
Simons said the teachers union is "opposed to a furlough."
"However," he said "it is my feeling that a majority of teachers understand the financial situation and would accept it if that's the way it has to be."