Teacher buyouts: A sign of the times
March 7th, 2012
10:30 AM ET

Teacher buyouts: A sign of the times

by Carl Azuz, CNN

It’s happening now in Grapevine,Texas:  Almost 40 teachers have signed up for an early buyout. Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District is making an offer that many can’t (or simply don’t want to) refuse: a bonus of 10 percent of teachers’ salaries to those who retire or resign.

The offer, which was popular in Grapevine, will help the district cut down a $7 million budget shortfall.  And it’s certainly not the only district to try this.

Late last year, Pittsburgh Public Schools approved a buyout plan that would offer some teachers almost 70% of their pay, plus severance, over eight years. Baltimore offered more than 700 teachers 75 percent of their pay over a five-year period.  And in Dallas, hundreds of teachers camped out to accept as much as $10,000 to resign at the end of the 2010-2011 school year.

Offering experienced teachers buyout plans enables schools to save money in the long run.  Those who’ve spent years in the classroom are more likely to have higher salaries, so giving them incentive to quit by offering lump sums of money or percentage pay enables schools ultimately to save on teacher pay and benefits.  Then, the school systems have the option to hire younger teachers who command smaller salaries – or simply downsize.

It’s not a bad deal for many teachers who are close to retirement anyway (or considering a career change).  But where this hurts is in experience:  Most veteran teachers have lasted decades in the classroom because they’re effective, they’re dynamic, and they like their jobs.  District officials say the Grapevine-Colleyville district stands to lose about 1,000 years of combined experience from buyouts there.  Whether or not those who accept them are replaced by younger teachers, the plan could weaken the educational system.

And critics question what other professions would do this.  Would it be a good thing if hospitals bought out the most experienced doctors, for example?  What about the most experienced airline pilots or police officers?

Since 2008, we’ve seen school systems consider everything imaginable to deal with funding and budget cuts.  Eliminating bus routes, laying off teachers, canceling extracurricular activities and courses and field trips, expanding class sizes:  It’s all had an impact on education across the country.  Teacher buyouts are yet another sign of the times in a field that used to be recession-proof – at least until the latest recession hit.

Posted by
Filed under: Policy • Practice • Teachers
soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. DrMoses

    Teachers, nurses, it doesn't matter. If a buyout is being offered then the employer was/is operating in an inefficient manner. Think about it...if an employer is offering incentives to NOT work then the employer has poorly managed their 'business'. Part of running a business (or running a school district) is planning. If you have to pay people to NOT work and to LEAVE their jobs then you aren't managing anything, your overspending – and most likely overspending someone else's money. In the case of teachers, that would be the taxpayer's money.

    March 8, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  2. Leila

    Young teachers have a lot to offer. I remember when I was a young teacher–the idealism, the energy, the excitement. I still have all of that, but when I was new I relied a lot on my veteran mentor teachers. THEY really taught me a lot and they encouraged me when I got tired, discouraged, or overwhelmed. They were a lifeline to the profession and as they retired, I became saddened. So much wisdom and knowledge. I miss them all. But they retired at 65 and completed their time. If teachers 'close' to retirement (whatever that is) are bought out, our new teachers will miss out on a wealth of support and knowledge. I am 14 years away from retirement but the time has gone by so fast already and I am not ready to leave.

    March 8, 2012 at 10:59 am |
  3. Lady_Dragon0612

    Home school is a wonderful thing......it's about time the parents become more involved in their kid's education anyway........traditional school just isn't cutting it anymore. You have teachers that are disgruntled about being there in the first place, students who are A>LWAYS disgruntled about one thing or another...........lousy curriculums due to lousy funding.........oh yes, and let us not forget students who bring weed, alcohol, a few of their mom or dad's prescription medication to share with friends........oooohh and let us never forget the students who have lost their lives because the one kid they've been bullying for years decides to exact some revenge and bring a couple of Dad's pistols to school!!

    Oh, yeah....traditional school is a wonderful place!!!

    March 8, 2012 at 8:53 am |
    • Ollie

      I've been in the classroom for 24 years and have had numerous homeschooled students enter my classes at about the 8th and 9th grade level – right at the time when advanced classes and credits and graduation and GPA for university admission begin to enter the picture.
      WITHOUT FAIL – homeschooled students have had skill deficits especially in writing and critical thinking.
      WITHOUT FAIL – they are wonderful, sweet, kids who I love.
      WITHOUT FAIL – they struggle with the social swirl of junior high.
      I wish could say that homeschooling is the answer to every real and perceived problem found in public education, but like every other theory, it isn't something that every parent can do and do well.
      Sort of like being a teacher . . . not everyone can do it and do it well.

      March 8, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • Leila

      Sadly we cannot shield our kids forever. I understand your position and as a mother I agree with you. However, as parents we can choose the schools, we can choose teachers we know are worth their salt. In college, our children will have to deal with similar issues; there is no way out. There IS weed and probably MORE prescription drug abuse in universities than in high schools! I know! My students return and tell me about the underground operations going on and how students will score all kinds of ways to stay awake and alert when they have a paper due or an exam! And disgruntled students? Well, universities are NOT immune to those either. Insofar as many students LIVE on campus, therein lies a greater danger!

      March 8, 2012 at 11:04 am |
  4. Steve- Illinois

    What the article fails to mention is the savings will be offset by a huge increase in teacher pension costs because of these very buyouts! This sham was perpetuated in Illinois, as a way for school districts to "save money" but with pensions based on the last few years salary, this turned into a windfall for those retireing, and costs the pension funds thousands of dollars each year, per teacher, for the rest of their lives.
    Illinois now finds itself rated as the top state in the nation for being broke, and in debt, of which the pension funds are the major cause!

    March 8, 2012 at 8:38 am |
  5. albert J. Wilson

    As long as school districts respond to demographically created housing that supports high to middle income
    families whose parents are college graduates. They dedicate theselves in everyway possible to insurse there
    children succeed in a home and school enviorment that stress the family values of hard work and reward. The
    creation of the "Super Housing projects" that segregated thousands of black and latino families in large urban
    centers of New York, New Jersey,Philadelphia, Chicago. Their children attended schools with in proximity of these of this segregated sprawling mass of humanity. The results of this experiment has been repeatedly examined over the years.Secretary Duncan is bringing the strength of his office to Howard Universaty to discuss the various issues emmanating from this social experiment.I would submit that the only way to turn this problem around is for prime school districts ib question is to admit these children and begin the long delayed process of reintroduction to a system of educational programes to halt the disintergation of a whole generation of children who will feed off the dreggs of the previous generation. I would admit this a long shot but the scools in Newark New Jersey are creating charter schools to create a climate of educational sound principals.

    March 7, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
  6. mj

    I have worked for a school district for the past 17 year, not as a teacher but as staff. I have watched dedicated wonderful teachers being beat down by excessive paperwork, long hours, discipline issues, overcrowded classrooms and many such overpowering problems. The older, backbone of the school, teachers understand that despite all the problems that at the end of the day, it all comes down to the student. They are why we are here. I can't teach, and I work for very little pay and no retirement to speak of, but I am here because I believe that our future is here. The young teachers may be fresh and lively, but they do not understand that teaching is not just a job but a calling and requires more dedication than being just "perky". Teaching now requires an intense dedication and work ethic that many younger people do not understand. I worry that by "retiring" older more stable teachers and hiring teachers who may not have the staying power required we are hurting and already at risk education system.

    March 7, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  7. tensai13

    And the insanity just keeps on going.

    March 7, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  8. Arthur

    This happens at times with nurses. When you get to the top of the pay scale you have to watch your back. Now think about THAT impact!!

    March 7, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
  9. Jessie

    This would be a good thing at our local high school. Trust me, I'm all for teachers getting treated better (my husband is a wonderful teacher, has been for 20 years) but I'm the first to admit, not every teacher is this giving, wonderful, mentor type we believe in. I've seen it firsthand myself. I would like for their employment to be based more on performance. The younger teachers who come in are fresh and excited to teach. Maybe because they're new, maybe because they aren't set in their ways, maybe because they were hired based on merit and not a corrupt old man's family loyalty (as in our previous superintendent who hired the older teachers).If we could bypass tenure, and get rid of this little group of teachers who cry and complain if they even have to report to school early once every other week for bus duty, our little town would be so much better off.

    March 7, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Oxygen

      You have a very simplistic perception and answer to this article. For example, it appears to me that you belong to the group of people that believes that all teachers are of equal value in the classroom with age bringing only negative qualities rather than experience. Another example would be your belief that teachers that complain about extra duties that distract from teaching, and therefore degrading their efficiency, are complainers. In other words, anyone can teach, but good teachers are those that teach and take on additional responsibilities with a smile on their face.

      March 7, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • Mike

      Tenure's definition varies from state to state. In PA Tenure only means that a teacher has rights to due process when being furloughed or fired. Tenure does not protect older bad teachers from being removed from service. It is actually the districts who do not follow the procedure to remove a bad teacher, which results in the unions getting involved because of due process, NOT TO PROTECT BAD TEACHERS.
      Reverse seniority (furloughing younger teachers before older teachers) is meant to protect older teachers from age discrimination. In the past teachers with experience are fried because they cost too much and it was cheaper to "restock" with cheaper new teachers.

      March 8, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  10. Mike

    This is the problem. The American Public thinks they want teachers who will work for nothing, with no experience because their politicians tell them that that is how to solve the problem. What no one wants to acknowledge is that this will weaken education in the US, putting us further behind other countries. But that's okay because all of the problems in public education are because of the greedy teachers and their unions (That's sarcasm by the way!).

    March 7, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • havana

      Right on, Mike. Wish someone would make me an offer–after years of teaching, I am burned out, frustrated, and angry at the way teachers are being scapegoated in this country. If you think it's bad now, just wait–no one I know wants to remain in the field, and morale stinks.

      March 7, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • heather

      It's sad to think that I'm going to school to teach and I may have nothing when all is said and done. I've wanted to teach for years but will I even be able to support my children off of a teacher's salary? How long will I be without work because districts are too busy letting people go? What will our schools be like and what kind of education will my children actually get? It's sad to see our country hurt for this when these little innocent minds that may be poorly educated are our future. So sad!

      March 7, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • jen

      Well said, Mike. I am not a teacher. but I am a parent in PA, and I highly value my children's teachers. They do great work, and I am very thankful for them. I am getting sick and tired of teachers and other public workers bearing the brunt of, and being a scapegoat for, budget shortfalls. And don't worry, not all of the American Public think of teachers as greedy, nor unions as bad. I vote with those perspectives in mind.

      March 8, 2012 at 7:05 pm |