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Many teachers given pink slips

Hundreds of teachers across the state received pink slipsThursday notifying them they would not be rehired for the nextschool year while a House bill to fully fund education was defeatedin the Senate.

Thursday was the deadline set by state law for school districtsto notify teachers who would not be rehired.

“It was a bad day for education in Mississippi,” said LincolnCounty School District Superintendent Terry Brister, “but I’m stillholding onto hope that the legislature will provide enough fundingfor us to hire those teachers back.”

Dr. Sam Bounds, superintendent of the Brookhaven SchoolDistrict, said administrators were left with no choice when a billdelaying the deadline until May was defeated earlier in thesession. That bill would have given administrators more time to seehow much funding they would receive from the legislature.

“We can’t gamble with the unknown,” Bounds said. “Assuperintendents, we couldn’t be comfortable even if the Senate camethrough on the House bill that it wouldn’t be vetoed.”

The funding crisis is not the only issue worryingadministrators, however. They are also concerned about how recentevents will effect educators in the future as the state and nationcontinue to struggle with a teacher shortage.

“We’re several hundred teachers short in Mississippi right now,”said Russell Caudill, superintendent of the Lawrence County SchoolDistrict. “We’re encouraging more people to go into the educationalfield, expecting more from teachers and holding them moreaccountable through programs like No Child Left Behind, but then wecan’t come up the funding to even meet the demand that is there. Ithink we’re sending mixed signals.”

Bounds agreed.

“It breaks my heart having to give a letter to these youngteachers,” he said.

A young teacher who received a pink slip Tuesday told him thesituation certainly would discourage people from entering theeducational field, Bounds said.

“That’s tragic,” he said, “but you can’t argue with it.”

Most of the teachers statewide receiving their pink slips areyoung teachers who don’t have any seniority, Caudill said.

“These are the teachers who are the future of education in thisstate, and I guess we’ve given them a very bad experience to lookat when they try to predict their future,” he said.

At least one teacher mentioned the possibility of moving out ofstate because of the funding climate, Caudill said, reemphasizing afear stressed several years that prompted the mandatory teacher payraises.

Others may be considering a career change.

“I’m sure some of the teachers questioned why they enterededucation and whether they would have to worry about their jobsevery year,” Caudill said.

The large scale teacher layoffs threatening the state is notcommon, Caudill said. Class size and student population generallydetermine the number of teachers a school and district need.

“Attrition would usually handle that through retirement orrelocation,” he said. “We just wouldn’t replace them if the demanddropped.”

The 20 notification letters Brister handed out Tuesday andWednesday were “all basically first year teachers. We’re hopeful wewill get more money and be able to reemploy those people,” he said.”We need these teachers. We can’t operate without them.”