A third way: San Diego avoids layoffs through early retirements

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In this season of cash-strapped budgets, school districts around the nation are engaging in teacher layoffs. There's no good way to reduce a workforce, but some ways work better than others, even in districts required by contract to lay off great junior teachers while having to keep some of the worst. San Diego, for instance, is offering early retirement packages to its veteran teachers to avoid pink slips. The district's bold and smart move makes sense for both kids and the budget: it keeps new talent in the classroom while yielding both short- and long-term savings.

This spring San Diego offered early retirement deals to 2,000-plus eligible teachers--those closest to retirement. The district hoped at least 633 would take advantage of the offer, and they did. In exchange for retiring early, the veteran teachers will receive an extra year's salary, to be paid out over time, in addition to regular retirement benefits.

Last fall, we noted that Dallas(see here) had the guts to lay off teachers who performed poorly, rather than those who were newest to the system. To do so, Dallas took advantage of its relatively reliable data on teacher effectiveness--the lack of which hamstrings even districts that do not have a teacher contract. More recently, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, another district without a teacher contract, has made performance the most important of a number of layoff criteria. Under the policy, the first to go will be nontenured teachers with poor year-end evaluations or classroom observations. After that, nontenured teachers in a number of other categories (lacking current licenses, part-time, rehired after retirement) will get the ax. Superintendent Peter Gorman hopes that he will not have to reach down into the ranks of tenured teachers to balance his budget, but if that is necessary, he says that performance will be the first consideration.