Once again an educational tsunami has wreaked havoc on the California Public School system. All the small, incremental, yet significant gains that have been made in student achievement growth during the last few years will be summarily erased due to the state’s budget crisis and resultant reduction of revenue flowing to school districts.
What a very sad commentary for a state that enrolls 11 percent of all K-12 public school students in the United States, and was known to be the model for excellence in public education in the 1950s and 1960s.
Increasing class sizes, furlough days, and decreases in teacher pay are not answers to an already worn-down system. However, encouraging the number of teachers near retirement to retire is an appropriate response.
By last Friday, March 13, more than 26,000 reduction-in-force (layoff) notices were sent out to teachers, counselors and librarians, not to mention administrators, in California. According to the SJ Mercury News 1,000 of those laid off were teachers in classrooms today in Silicon Valley. Many of these letters were mailed to smart, energetic and highly qualified new teachers. This is not a good prescription for a healthy public education system.
I urge teachers with 30 or more years of experience, at 58-plus years of age, to look closely at the retirement facts.
Here’s the scoop…many teachers nearing retirement who stay on for one more year are working for pennies on the dollar, and taking a job away from the newer colleague. Even though teacher retirement, CalSTRS, is not as good as police, fire, or CalPERS retirement systems, it is certainly good enough. Let me illustrate.
If a teacher makes $80,000 after 30 years of teaching at age 61.5 years of age he/she can retire at 72 percent of his/her current annual income, plus an additional longevity bonus of $200 per month. So for this example the annual retirement income is $60,000.
The longevity bonus will sunset on December 31, 2010 if you are not retired before then. The longevity bonus maxes out at $400 per month at 32 years of service.
As a current employee a teacher has 8 percent of their monthly income subtracted for CalSTRS in one of many payroll deductions. When one retires, that 8 percent is not deducted. When you compute 8 percent not deducted from earnings any longer, the reductions in income taxes for making a lower amount, as well as gas, vehicle, and clothing costs you will probably discover you are working for pennies on the dollar if not working for less than you would make in retirement. Your retirement will be a win-win for everyone.
If one is still hankering for more than playing golf, reading cooking, gardening, or volunteering, districts always need substitute teachers and are more than happy to process retired teachers to substitute in classrooms. The retiree can choose the day, grade level and school in which to sub. Districts pay retirees to substitute at various rates of pay, but according to my calculations for one day per week of subbing one can earn $600-$750 dollars more per month—vacation money. You can teach summer school, adult education classes, or just volunteer, predicated on income needs.
Currently, teachers do not have to declare they are going to retire until after the school year is over, and most wait until the end to divulge their intent. This practice causes districts to send out more layoff notices than necessary. I exhort all teachers close to retirement who can afford its benefits to declare their intent to retire to their human resource department by the end of April. The information can be kept confidential until June. Reducing the need for layoffs should be our most important priority this spring.
One mitigating factor in my exuberance to hire all 1,000 Silicon Valley teachers back by the end of April is health care. One must ensure prior to qualifying for Medicare that your health care needs are covered. Some districts do the bridge coverage if you have taught for them for a specified number of years, however it is something important to consider.
With good personal planning and guidance (hand-holding from HR departments) we can ameliorate the tragic result of layoffs that devastate public education.
Lastly, according to many actuaries earlier retirement adds to the longevity of life. The earlier you retire the more money you collect from CalSTRS. If you wait too long you might not get much return on your investment.