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September 19, 2013

GAE initiative seeks full 180 days of instruction

VALDOSTA — For several years across the state, school systems have been facing budget cuts. These cuts have caused many schools to shorten their school years and implement furlough days for their teachers. This year, the Georgia Association of Educators has set forth an initiative to bring back the full 180 days of instruction and combat these budget cuts.

In some areas of the state, schools are facing cuts of over 30 days, with counties like Webster, Harrison and Chattooga having under 150 instructional days. Lowndes County schools and Valdosta City schools are doing much better than most districts, with Lowndes County having 176 days of instruction and Valdosta City having a full 180; a proud achievement considering only 57 systems in the state have a full 180 days.

Lowndes County and Valdosta City schools have both been burdened by furlough days at some point over the last few years, with both schools having four furlough days in the 2012-2013 year. While this might seem like a small cut to most, according to the GAE, any amount of furlough days is too many. Calvine Rollins, president of the GAE, stated, "Research shows that time spent in the classroom directly correlates with the achievement rate of students."

A press release from the GAE shared a quote in which Rollins discusses this issue. "More time in the classroom would give Georgia students access to an enriched learning program. If we truly want Georgia students to achieve, then we must reinstate their full calendar. Right now we don't provide time for many students to learn or teachers to teach. Then we wonder why we don't get the results we want and need."

Rollins also spoke of the importance of a full 180 day schedule from a teachers’ perspective. She shared, "Anytime there is less than 180 days, that is a loss of revenue for teachers. Teachers do so much in regards to making sure that students have everything they need. They buy school supplies to make sure that students who are economically challenged have what they need. Teachers do a phenomenal job going out of their way to help students in any way possible. Replenishing that is very important to teachers. Teachers want to see their students succeed. If their students succeed, they succeed."  

The GAE is encouraging the community, parents, teachers and students to contact local legislators to provide the funding for a full 180 days. Rollins said, "We need to be able to compete with the rest of the nation by ensuring our students have a full 180 days. It is so important. Many of the more rural systems don't have the funding to supplement, while the larger systems can. We need to bring awareness across the state to join us in encouraging legislatures to fully fund 180 days."

Rollins recommends that community members write letters, make phone calls and send emails to local legislatures to help supply this funding. She also encourages teachers to speak to board members about creative ways to raise this funding without increasing milage rates.

"I think Valdosta is very progressive. Education is important in Valdosta, which is evident through the college and how successful Valdosta State is. If they could just consider a one percent sales tax going to education. That is one way this could equate to 180 days and ensure that quality teachers are in the classroom and not being furloughed. That is one way that they can without raising the millage rate on the currently high tax rate."

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