Monday, January 5, 2015

A Peculiar Payout

Last week, Blair Ames with the Howard County Times wrote that the Board of Education would be offering "buyouts" to up to 600 teachers, and other HCPSS employees, with 15 years of experience or more.  This buyout would provide one year's salary over a five year period and was projected to save up to $9 million.

This is a circumstance we have become accustomed to in sequester/austerity governance.  Hold vacancies, freeze salaries, and buyout retirees.  It is a way to hold down personnel costs without anyone finding pink slips in their inbox.

But it is quite peculiar.

I don't know about where you work (and I know many of you are teachers), but at my job 15 years is when you are in the stride of your profession.  An attorney with 15 years experience is more valuable in terms of billing rate and marketability than those fresh out of law school.  If I have a problem that I need help figuring out, I will likely seek out those attorneys with 15+ years of experience to help me work it out.

And sure enough, those with 15 years experience often plan to gain 15 more years of experience, at least, before calling it a career.

So that's what's peculiar about this "solution".  Not only what our public school system loses when we entice our most experienced teachers into retirement, but also what we tell all of our teachers in doing so - "you can make a career out of this if you have to, but we would rather you check out after you start making any semblance of a salary commensurate with your experience."  Said otherwise - you are a widget.  Widgets that cost X may stay, widgets that cost >X should go (if you would be so kind).

This is bad for our public school system.  I have a line-up of favorite teachers I think of when reflecting on my educational milestones and every single one of them had 15 years+ in the classroom.  To put this in perspective, if I had started teaching out of college, I would be up for a buy-out in 3 years.

This is voluntary and, considering the obscenely high turnover we have among those we ask to educate our children, it is likely a blessing for some thinking of starting their second career in a more lucrative position.  But it is bad policy.  Really bad policy.  I don't know what kind of conversations led to this proposal, but it is a shame our Board of Education feels they need to cut $9 million and that this is the best way to do so.  If a law firm had to make similar cuts, you can be sure they wouldn't be getting the most experienced lawyers to leave.

Have a great Monday doing what you love!  Happy New Year!