I just don’t get it. Less than one full week after a story in the Independent Record that suggested the Helena School District was facing a potential budget shortfall of $1.4 million, the district met for contract negotiations and and decided that it was appropriate to offer a bonus of as much as $12,000 to experienced teachers who retire and give notice to the school district:
The permanent language change says if a teacher notifies the district the year he or she wants to retire prior to Jan. 15, the educator receives $9,000 in termination pay. It also says that if an educator notifies the district the year before intended retirement, he or she receives a $5,000 stipend and $7,000 in termination pay in the final year.
This is a permanent change, meaning the district won’t be able to entice retirements in the future when budgets are tight, and represents a wholesale shift of resources from younger teachers and students to the senior staff, who make as much twice the salary of beginning teachers.
If that kind of money exists in the system, it seems like there might be a few more sensible ways to spend it. If 15 teachers were to retire under this system next year, the school district will pay out $180,000, with no return on that investment. That kind of money could:
- place 200 computers in classrooms.
- hire 5 new teachers.
- offer a sizeable loan forgiveness programs for new teachers, who find it difficult to stay in Montana after the debt of college.
- create sensible, effective professional development opportunities for staff members.
- develop new programs for students or restore those that have been cut.
I don’t mean to question the effort and skill of teachers who have dedicated their lives to the profession, but they are already well-compensated. Prioritizing additional resources for teachers on their way out of the system, especially in a difficult budgetary climate, seems reckless and wrong.