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.
President, American Federation of Teachers
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