The State Board of Education on Wednesday approved rules for furloughs ordered by Gov. Beverly Perdue, but declined a request to allow schools to shorten the school year. Last week, Perdue announced that she was cutting employee salaries one-half of one percent. In exchange, employees will take flexible furloughs of 10 hours before the year ends. School boards and employees have been waiting for instructions on how to schedule the leave. Wake County school officials had requested that the board allow schools to hold 179 days of class instead of 180 to help handle furloughs. But the policy approved by the board includes no provisions allowing such a move. The furlough policy says teachers, media specialists, bus drivers and teacher assistants who require substitutes cannot take school days off.
But William Harrison, the board chairman and state public schools CEO, said he is telling local districts that employees can take furlough time here and there during the school day if they're not teaching or supervising students. For example, a teacher who has a planning period in his schedule that she doesn't need can count that time toward the 10 hours. The board policy changes furlough dates in Perdue's executive order to allow school employees to start taking time off this month rather than waiting until June. This gives employees who won't be returning to work next year the chance to take off work. Though the policy does not address school employees paid with county funds, Harrison said he recommends districts treat them as if they are state employees. Unlike teachers, bus drivers who are paid by the hour don't have days they can use for furloughs. It is still unclear how bus drivers will be able to take a 10-hour leave.(Lynn Bonner, THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 5/07/09).