The D.C. Board of Education voted yesterday to furlough all 8,800 school system employes for up to six days this fall and postpone $1 million in building repairs and purchases of school supplies in order to avert a $4.8 million budget deficit projected for the end of this fiscal year.
The cost-cutting measures will mean a $500 pay loss for each teacher, delays in the delivery of new books, pencils and crayons and post-ponement of scheduled boiler repairs in some buildings, but no lost school days for students.
Some board members held out hope yesterday that the City Council would direct part of a projected $7 million in the overall city budget to the school system, and make the cuts unnecessary.
"If we get that money, there will be no furlough," said Board Member Barbara Lett Simmons (at Large).
But Carol Richards, press secretary for Council Chairman Arrington Dixon, said that while the chairman was sympathetic to the board's request, the Council does not have the authority to redirect such city money without a request from the mayor.
City Administrator Elijah B. Rogers had said earlier that the expected $7 million surplus, which is due primarily to higher-than-expected tax revenues, would be used to help pay the city's $388 million accumulated budget deficit.
Shortly after the board voted 7 to 4 to approve the furlough plan, school system employes sent out furlough notices to the 8,800 employes -- including 5,000 teachers.
According to the plan approved yesterday, teachers, principals and school supervisors will be furloughed for six days in September. The furlough days agreed upon are Sept. 1, 2, 7, 19, 20 and 26.
The first two days are before school actually begins, when teachers get together to work out their programs for the upcoming school year. The other four days are weekends or holidays -- days on which no teachers work, but for which they are paid because technically their salaries are calculated on seven-day weeks. Thus the teachers, with an average salary of about $24,000 a year, would lose about $500 in scheduled earnings.
William H. Simons, president of the Washington Teachers Union, said he oposed the furlough plan as approved by the board, especially since the teachers would have their paychecks cut for four days which they normally would not have worked anyway.
"We're going to explore the legality of it, to try to stop it," Simons said.
The only debate over the furlough plan came as board members disagreed over whether or not to send employes home on days when children would be in the classrooms. Some members thought that to cancel some school days would emphasize to parents the school system's financial plight.
If this happened, Simmons said, "Parents would be motiviated, I believe, to raise inquiry of our mayor. The most profound learning is experiential learning."
But the prevailing view was that to cancel school days would hurt the children, simply to make a point to the mayor and City Council. In approving the furlough for nonschool days, Board Member Alaire B. Rieffel (Ward 2) said, "We will not be using the children of this city as pawns."
Board member Frank Smith added, "Every single day of school is important to a child. We've already taken books out of our students' hands. We've already taken mops out of our janitors' hands."
The board members agreed that if the council adds any additional fund to the school budget, the money would go to reduce the number of furlough days necessary.
The four board members voting against the furlough plan were Simmons, Frank Shaffer-Corona (At Large), John E. Warren (Ward 6) and Calvin Lockridge (Ward 8).