District Needs more Budget 'Homework'
August 30, 2018
School districts across our state need to encourage and hire new teachers to come into the profession as veteran teachers retire. The average rate of teaching staff retirements found in most school districts is less than 10 percent annually.
Having your highest-paid teachers retire is one way that school districts can reduce staffing costs. But itâ€™s those same teachers that usually have the most expertise gained through classroom experience. So, it cannot be done willy-nilly.
If the retirement plan is not properly balanced, an â€śexperience gapâ€ť can happen.
After years of giving staff over 25 percent in unsustainable raises, our Board turned around and started offering these now much better-paid veteran teachers $20,000 as an incentive to retire. Basically saying, hereâ€™s more money to stay, but, hereâ€™s even more money if you retire.
The Boardâ€™s incentive worked so well that the District ended up having to hire a slew of first- and second-year teachers (those with the least classroom experience) at a rate double that of the Los Angeles County average.
From 2014-15 to 2016-17, the District had to hire 58 new teachers (19% of FTE), 71 (23%) and 58 (18.4%), respectively.
Farragut Elementary could be considered a prime example to show how the Boardâ€™s unrealistic hiring practices lead to Farragutâ€™s teacher-experience gap.
In 2013-14, Farragutâ€™s teaching staff averaged 15 years of experience. Just two years later, its staff experience dropped to only 11 years.
In fact, in 2015-16, more than one-third (10 out of 27) of the teaching staff at Farragut had only one or two-years of real classroom experience.
Did this lack of experience affect the schoolâ€™s quality of instruction?
Our Board was sending teachers nearing retirement a mixed-message by paying those teachers more to stay on the job, but also, at the same time, trying to lure them with a one-time $20,000 payout to retire.
Not only did the conflicting plans cost the District more: It also has compounded its state-mandated annual increases in its CalSTRS and CalPERS payments, thereby taking an even bigger chunk out of our Districtâ€™s budget.
Parents should not forget that for every dollar that has to be siphoned off to pay for increasing annual state pension contributions, itâ€™s a dollar that will never make it into the classroom to enhance their childrenâ€™s education.
So, even after replacing almost half (177) of the Districtâ€™s teaching staff in an effort to lower staffing costs, it really should not come as a surprise to anyone how this Boardâ€™s lack of basic fiscal common sense when making budgetary decisions ended up spending our District into a $3-million structural deficit--and why it is now asking local homeowners to bail it out by approving an annual parcel tax of $189 to raise $16.5 million over the next seven years.
It makes me wonder: If the District had not replaced nearly half of its teaching staff with lower-cost, less-experienced teachers, what would have been our Districtâ€™s deficit?