A letter of warning that a popular teacher’s program might be cut has sparked controversy at the Capitol.
The Career Ladder , created in 1985, gives teachers a bonus for additional education. In a letter to the Education Commission, legislative budget committee chairmen indicate how the $37 million program is funded will change and that the program could be cut.
House Minority Leader Paul LeVota (D-Independence) says the two Republicans had no right to speak for the legislature as a whole.
"This should not be determined just on a letter signed by the Appropriations Chair in the Senate and the (House) budget chair," LeVota says. "They do not speak for the General Assembly."
LeVota vows House Democrats will fight any cut to Career Ladder.
House Budget Committee Chairman Allen Icet (R-Wildwood) defends the letter he co-wrote with Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Gary Nodler.
"Really, the letter of intent war more informative about what may happen in the General Assembly," Icet says.
At present, the state must pay the Career Ladder bonus at the end of the school year. In the letter, the chairmen say the General Assembly reserves the right to appropriate money in advance, if state revenues allow.
"If you read the entire letter of intent, it clearly states that this is something that, we, the General Assembly, need to take under consideration, again as to balancing the budget," Icet says.
Icet says the letter shouldn’t be considered a judgment on Career Ladder, merely an acknowledgement of very difficult budget times for the state.
Approximately 18,000 teachers in 65% of the state’s school districts participate in the Career Ladder program.