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New Orleans teachers get one last paycheck

New Orleans teachers will not get paid for periods after Hurricane Katrina because there is almost no money left in the city’s strapped school system, an executive of the outside firm that runs the schools said Wednesday.
/ Source: Reuters

New Orleans teachers will not get paid for periods after Hurricane Katrina because there is almost no money left in the city’s strapped school system, an executive of the outside firm that runs the schools said Wednesday.

But a team of experts was set to descend on the city on Wednesday to find schools that can be reopened as soon as possible, providing the system gets emergency funding from the government to operate.

The paycheck issued this week to teachers is for the last pay period before the storm hit, said Bill Roberti, a director with the restructuring firm of Alvarez and Marsal, which runs the school system.

“This is the last payroll we will be able to issue for the time being,” Roberti said in a briefing. “We were not able to move forward with the $50 million financing we were pursuing to keep the district afloat. We are very low on cash at this time.”

The 7,000-employee, 116-school system was already in dire financial shape before Katrina hit, which is why the firm was pursuing the $50 million financing package.

A total of $13 million in payroll is available at Western Union branches across the country for teachers to pick up, Roberti said.

The state’s schools superintendent said Tuesday he will ask Congress for $2.4 billion in aid for teacher benefits and salaries, and Alvarez and Marsal sent a letter to President Bush as well, asking for help.

Sajan George, another managing director at Alvarez and Marsal, said the destruction Katrina caused was, in its own way, an opportunity to renew the beleaguered system.

“The rebuilding will afford a number of opportunities in not only rebuilding the physical environment but the educational environment students work in,” he said. “The faster we can get back to reopening the school system the faster we can rebuild a world-class city.”