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This post has been updated.
Nearly 530 teachers in the San Diego Unified School District volunteered to retire next year – and they will get 100 percent of their final annual salary for doing so.
The early retirement incentive was supposed to be a money-saving move by the cash-strapped district, which is trying to plug a $124.4 million hole in its 2017-18 budget. But district documents show the payout will actually begin costing the district money in two years.
According to a district chart posted for Thursday night’s board meeting, after saving $3 million next school year, the retirements will save less than half that the following year.
In total, the retirements and payouts that come with them will save the district $4.48 million in the first two years, but will cost $5.12 million the following three years, for a net loss of more than $635,600, district documents show.
When the early retirement incentive was approved by the school board Feb. 28, it was conditioned on enough eligible teachers taking the deal, and that it would “generate net savings, or no net cost, to the district’s General Fund-Unrestricted, in the initial year of implementation and cumulatively over five years,” the action item said, which was approved unanimously.
Though it appears the move would now cost the district over five years, staff is nonetheless recommending the school board approve the incentive Thursday night at a special meeting. The agenda item says it is “not a 2017-18 Budget Solution” and that it aims “to mitigate the effect of the layoffs.”
“The $600K (cost) is less than a percentage point out of the district’s $1.3 (billion) budget, and worth it to the district to save a large number of teacher layoffs,” district spokeswoman Shari Winet said in an email.
It is not yet clear how many teacher layoff notices will be rescinded thanks to the retirements. Though the school board is scheduled to rescind some teacher layoffs, specific information had not yet been posted publicly by Thursday morning.
More than 1,500 district employees of all kinds were issued layoff notices in recent months. Getting a handle on exactly how many people received pink slips has been a struggle, thanks to mixed information reported by district officials. Included in the hundreds of teachers scheduled to be laid off: 266 general subject elementary school teachers, 159 special education teachers, 42 English teachers, 30 visual and performing arts teachers and 27 foreign language teachers.
According to an analysis by Voice of San Diego, the 20 district schools where the most teachers were facing layoffs are overwhelmingly poor.
To qualify for the early retirement incentive – which offered 100 percent of a year’s salary paid out incrementally over five years – teachers had to have spent at least five years working for the district and be eligible to retire from the state pension systems, according to the agreement reached with the teachers’ union earlier this year.
Update: This post has been updated to include a statement from the district.