SAIPAN — Public School System wants to end the furlough of more than 700 locally funded employees so they can receive their summer pay benefit, said Education Commissioner Alfred Ada.
PSS was recently awarded $23.1 million in federal Education Stabilization Funds.
But during a recent Board of Education meeting, Marianas High School teacher Jeremy Rother said lifting the furlough will deplete PSS' limited funding.
He said Ada's announcement "was later retracted, but I am now very concerned about the possibility of PSS leadership ... prematurely lifting the furlough in a way that needlessly depletes the limited funding that is available for education from the CARES Act and other sources."
Rother said putting PSS employees back on the payroll should not be the primary reason for spending the federal funds. He added PSS should instead use the funding for next school year's operations by purchasing technology and other instructional resources for students, or repairing and replacing the "crumbling infrastructure" at various schools.
"PSS leadership already made the mistake of incurring outsize payroll liabilities, which they knew they would not even be able to pay on time to locally funded employees by keeping us on administrative leave status, all the way until April 15. During this period, PSS wasted money it did not have yet by deepening its outstanding obligation to employees who were not working," Rother said.
Most of the furloughed teachers, he added, are expecting unemployment benefits from the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation programs.
"If PSS employees remain on furlough, most of us can expect more money for the furlough period from unemployment assistance programs, and a more financially robust PSS going into next school year," Rother said. "If the furlough is lifted, PSS can expect less money for that same period and more financial uncertainty for PSS employees, students and families we serve."
PSS federal programs manager Tim Thornburgh told the Board of Education members, "My opinion is that with the JD Edwards financial management system, we really need to bring those teachers back, because if they are furloughed they are not employees and we can't make a payment."