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Lower pay scale eyed for county’s teachers

The salaries of teachers were put on the table for discussion as a possible cost-cutting measure at a work session of the Morgan County School Board Thursday night. But stiff resistance to any such move was indicated by the number of teachers present as well as comments made by board member Jimmy Dobbs and Gloria Johnson, AEA Uniserve director.

Superintendent Bill Hopkins triggered the discussion when he reported that he and chief financial officer John Godwin had consulted with State Department of Education officials and found that the state’s salary matrix for teacher salaries is less than what Morgan County pays.

“We’re a long way from making any proposal that would reduce the pay of our teachers,” Hopkins pointed out,” but it’s something that needs to be discussed in the open along with other cost-cutting options.”

“I’m not in favor of balancing the budget off the backs of our teachers,” said board member Jimmy Dobbs. “I know of teachers who take money out of their own pockets to take care of a child who needs help. As far as I’m concerned, we shouldn’t be thinking about taking anything away from them.”

“What you’re talking about doing is reducing teachers’ salaries,” Johnson said. “A teacher with a bachelor degree who is topped out at step 24 would lose $1,800 a year if she is paid according to the state’s minimum salary matrix. It would also have a lasting effect on their retirement.

“You have already asked your teachers to remove the electrical appliances from their classrooms as an energy conservation measure,” she added. “Are you now telling them you want to cut their pay to the state’s minimum requirement while still expecting them maximum from them?”

“Have the principals get with their staffs and see what they can do to save money,” she suggested.

“We have also looked at the option of doing nothing,” Hopkins said. “We need to speak about these things in public. Times are tough. We need to think about this and look at some other cost savings at our next meeting.

Godwin said later he didn’t know how much the county would save on teacher salaries based on the state’s minimum pay scale. However, he pointed out that the county school system isn’t meeting its state surplus requirement  ($3.9 million) and will have to come up with a plan soon to meet the requirement.