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Should we offer teachers buyouts?

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, wrote in response to my column Thursday about a proposal to spend $23 billion to keep teachers on the job across the country. I argued it would be smarter to offer buyouts to older teachers instead. Here's what Weingarten had to say:

If Matt Miller (“Buyouts, not bailouts, for teachers,” May 13) is going to tell Congress how to run schools and call on me to back “buyouts,” I would ask him—as any teacher would—to start by doing his homework and looking at the data.

Buyouts, just as they have in the past, should -- of course -- be part of the mix when dealing with school budget cuts. Three times, as a union leader in New York, when city funds were tight, I negotiated contracts with the district that included retirement incentives. (Our affiliate in Cleveland is seeking similar incentives to deal with budget problems there, but management has rejected them.) The retirement incentives saved money, but in the years that followed, test scores dropped, mentors were scarce and school discipline eroded.

There is never a good way to deal with budget cuts of this magnitude -- cuts that could lead to 300,000 educator layoffs across the nation, as well as many other service cuts. Retirement incentives have the potential to destabilize schools because of the loss of valuable experience, and layoffs of thousands of newer teachers have the potential to send packing a generation of teachers who may never return.

So, averting massive layoffs -- not discussing who should be laid off -- is really the only option if you want to avoid harmful consequences for kids and schools. Fortunately, there’s legislation before Congress that does just that.

Despite Miller’s derision, the bill would provide a $23 billion one-time investment to avert layoffs. That will help prevent harmful consequences for students this fall -- drastic increases in class sizes, less individualized instruction, more classroom discipline and school safety problems, and the elimination of essential programs like art, music, AP classes and summer school.

With that option on the table, and with students facing serious consequences, it is astonishing that Matt Miller is trumpeting a federal retirement incentive scheme that would do nothing to improve teaching and learning.

Randi Weingarten

President, American Federation of Teachers

By Matt Miller  | May 14, 2010; 4:30 PM ET
Categories:  Miller  | Tags:  Matt Miller  
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Texas screws its teachers to the wall...changing retirement plans mid-stream, losing invested funds...non-union state...then there's the Windfall Elimination Provision so teachers can't collect Social already can't collect disability because you don't pay in...

Buy outs. whatever.

Posted by: joesmithdefend | May 15, 2010 4:06 AM | Report abuse

Of course anything that might deplete the union ranks is a no no to the union president.
Allowing members to choose early retirement rather than be exposed to evaluations (which have already started)might start a mass flood of early retiree's.

Posted by: bilmul83 | May 15, 2010 8:24 AM | Report abuse

You say my post can not be posted because I have submitted too many comments in a short period of time.
This was my first comment.

Semper Fi

Posted by: bilmul83 | May 15, 2010 8:27 AM | Report abuse

Buyouts, are you sincere? The low calibre of teachers provided by UNIONS (Ugh!)should receive a pink slip like the rest of the country! Taxpayers are done paying their hard earned money on damnable UNIONS AND THEIR GREEDY EMPLOYEES.

Posted by: prossers7 | May 15, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Why is it that when conservatives demand concessions from teachers and other public employees (especially if they're unionized) from contracts (holy, holy contracts) mutually agreed upon, they feel duty bound to accuse the employees' representatives of treason and disloyalty and hurting the public weal unless they agree to the conservatives' demands? Sorry, cons, taxes can go up too, despite what your plutocrat overlords might wish, as part of the solution. What the cons are pushing is simply just another form of terrorism. Let's just recognize it for what it is and call it by its rightful name - conservative terrorism.

Posted by: Linksmann | May 16, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Buyouts, are you sincere? The low calibre of teachers provided by UNIONS (Ugh!)should receive a pink slip like the rest of the country! Taxpayers are done paying their hard earned money on damnable UNIONS AND THEIR GREEDY EMPLOYEES.

Posted by: prossers7 | May 15, 2010 1:34 PM

1.) Unions don't provide teachers. Teachers are trained at universities public and private alike.
2.) Teachers pay taxes too.
3.) If the unions are so so powerful, why is that when the economy turns south education is one of the first areas to see cuts but the last area to see funding increases when times are good?
4.) How can you call teachers greedy? Someone who willingly chooses a career that asks them to work 10-12 hours a day and start off making low 40s a year (in MD anyway) while putting up with crap from kids who feel entitled thanks to parents who don't respect schools deserves an effing medal.

Posted by: kevin_rigsby19 | May 17, 2010 8:18 AM | Report abuse

Buyouts make more sense than lay-offs when you consider how hard teachers work. No one enters the teaching profession to be rich and famous. Teaching is an art that takes time, practice, patience, dedication and advanced academic degrees.

Posted by: JuliaMasi | May 18, 2010 8:54 PM | Report abuse

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