Proposed Program Encourages Teacher Retirement

Texoma school districts are busy slashing their budgets in anticipation of a multi-million dollar cut from the state. Texas legislators plan to slash about $9 billion from the education fund, which means individual school districts will have millions less a year to work with.

School districts officials Newschannel 6 spoke to said they won't have the funds to update testing materials and will most likely have to eliminate classes.

"It's scary," said Linda Strickland, a grandmother. "Totally against it. I realize there has to be cuts, but I don't think they should be in our education for our children."

Her husband, Bruce Strickland agrees. "It's bad enough now that kids don't have the books and the school supplies they need now to study," he said. "So where are they going to cut it from?"

Anthony Calaway, whose wife is expecting their first child together, can't believe the lack of funding suggested by the state. "It's ridiculous and stupid because education is important," he said. "You can't get anywhere nowadays without an education, so why cut a budget, especially for something so important?"

One of the most expensive items for schools are teacher salaries. Next year, students may have fewer instructors in their classrooms. Vernon ISD Superintendent, Tom Woody, is careful to explain that all teachers who want to stay in Vernon are safe from firings.

"We don't intend to actually go out and layoff teachers. But at the same time, as teachers leave through retirement or moving to another area, we are going to look at every position that we get through attrition and try not to replace that position," he explained.

If Vernon ISD loses the expected $2 million dollars to their budget, the district would not have the money to replace retiring teachers.

Officials with the Wichita Falls ISD are also attempting to plan how many teachers will still be employed next school year. A letter of intent was sent out to every WFISD employee, to ask if anyone thought about resigning or retiring before the next school year. So far, 48 people indicated they will leave the district.

"If we could get a good handle on the number of teachers that would be leaving, then we have a better idea of how much attrition we might have and perhaps the number of positions that we will not be replacing," said Debbie Osborn, the Human Resources Director for WFISD. "We are tentatively looking at an early exit incentive program and that will basically be to pay teachers who are looking at leaving the district and giving us timely notice."

Under the proposed program, teachers would either receive a flat payout or a percentage of their salary for their early exit. Many in Wichita Falls are divided over the plan.

"There won't be an education and then teachers are going to be wanting to retire early because they are going to get a bonus for retiring," said Calaway. "And that's just, that's ridiculous."

Linda Strickland, however doesn't believe the program is bad. "I think that if they are ready to retire, that's great," she said. "If it is a reasonable incentive, I think this is their choice."

WFISD officials hope the proposed plan may help the district save money and save teachers.

"In the future, it might keep us from having to terminate or lay people off. Which in turn could be more costly than the incentive that we are proposing to pass," explained Osborn. "We're just trying to do everything we can before we get to the point where we might have to take extreme measures."

The school district modeled the incentive proposition after other programs in the state, such as Burkburnett ISD.

WFISD school board will discuss the details of the retirement program at their meeting on Monday, February 21st. if you have any questions or concerns over the plan, contact WFISD Human Resources.

Mary Moloney, Newschannel 6