In what is becoming an all too familiar strategy, the Georgia Department of Education recommended yesterday to shorten the school year to help schools cope with budget cuts next year. The Georgia Department of Education says with state funding cuts likely to be above A BILLION DOLLARS, schools should have the flexibility to cut teacher instructional days which would shorten the school year.Deputy Superintendent of Finance Scott Austensen says that could mean more furlough days for educators.”It seems to us teachers are going to have to be taking reduced pay because there simply is not enough money in the budget,” says Austensen.Pardon me Scott but did we hear that right? Teachers are going to have take reduced pay because there isn’t enough money in the budget? Joe Taxpayer is seeing 6.2% come out of his gross pay every payday for state taxes and you are telling us that there isn’t enough money in the budget? When the following wages are earned by our state politicians (excluding expense accounts, transportation allowance, housing allowance and benefits, of course),Governor – $135,281 – Sonny PerdueLieutenant Governor – $88,941Secretary of State – $120,036Attorney General – $133,778Treasurer – $126,500you, Mr. Austensen, suggest that teachers (who themselves earn on average $21,216.00/year) are going to have to take the hit?We are all well aware that this year, school systems have managed furloughs by cutting only planning days, but now it is being recommended that schools be given the flexibility to cut instructional days from 184 to 180? That’s right. 180 instructional days. That is roughly 49% of a school-age child’s days per year compared to countries like Australia, Japan and India where children are in school for an average of 294 days per year. ”Our view now is we need to talk to school systems and consider whether or not it makes sense to cut all professional development days,” says Austensen, “as opposed to looking at balancing maybe some reduced days for direct instruction and some reduced days for professional development.”The collateral damage in this budget cutting equation are staggering. If teachers take a pay cut can we honestly expect the average college grad carrying $30k in outstanding education loans to be attracted to such a job? Can we expect the retention rate of good, qualified teachers to remain? And what will all these students do for the days they presumably would not be in school? Will their parents also get more days “off” a year to care for their children?GO!