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Will My Pay Be Cut Permanently if Furloughed?

The local school board employing you decides the nitty gritty details such as the number of days teachers are furloughed. But the State Superintendent of Public Instruction provided guidance about furloughs in an August 20, 2010 Memorandum to Division Superintendents.

The State Superintendent explained that furloughs are temporary and involuntary leaves of absence without pay justified by financial exigency. Reducing the number of days school employees work reduces the amount employees are paid. The savings allows the school board to comply with state law and stay within the amount appropriated for schools by your city council or county supervisors.

Your school division must provide students with 180 days or 990 hours of instruction to continue receiving state funding. Furloughs cannot reduce instructional time. But your teaching contract obligates you beyond the time you spend delivering instruction. Regulations by the State Board of Education set 200 days as the standard length of a teacher contract including:

  • One hundred and eighty teaching days or 990 instructional hours (minimum required by law);
  • Ten days for activities such as teaching, planning for the opening of school, evaluation, completing records and reports incident to the closing of each semester or school year, committee assignments, and conferences;
  • Ten days for a continuation of activities under subdivisions 1 and 2 of this section, and such other activities as may be assigned or approved by the local school board.

Guidance from the State Superintendent allows local school boards to furlough school employees up to ten days in a single contract/school year. Teachers will still deliver and be paid for 180 days or 990 hours of instruction and will perform and be paid for 10 days of related activities. But the school board can furlough teachers without pay for up to 10 additional days. Each day of furlough reduces a teacher’s salary by 1/200 with a maximum reduction of 10/200 or 1/20 of the annual salary.

Any cut in pay hurts. Still the furlough guidance specifies that school divisions should not adjust contributions to the Virginia Retirement System (VRS) or change the salary reported to VRS for purposes of retirement and group insurance. The guidelines state: "Employees’ service credit and salary information reported to the Virginia Retirement System may not be adjusted for the unpaid furlough time. This will ensure that an employee’s average creditable compensation for retirement and life insurance benefits will not be adversely affected and ensures that VRS receives the requisite contributions to fund these benefits.”

Following the guidance of the State Superintendent local school boards can furlough to save money but not change VRS contributions, offering a slight but important advantage to the teachers.

Hard time require hard decisions. Furloughs hurt school employees by cutting pay. But the state guidance emphasizes that furloughs are a temporary response to financial difficulties. Retirement contributions and group insurance must be based on the permanent salary not the reduced amount paid because of the involuntary unpaid leave.

Contact your local Association President and UniServ Director for more information about whether your school board is imposing temporary furloughs, for how many days, and how that will affect your pay. Find out whether schools are closed and access to school computers denied on designated furlough days. And work with Association colleagues before the local school board, governing body and state legislature to improve school funding and teacher compensation in the years ahead.


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