DISD Board Will Consider Using $10 Mil From General Fund to Pay Teachers to Leave Early

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When last I looked at the Dallas Independent School District board's meeting agenda for Thursday, there was no item offering to pay some 1,000 teachers up to $10,000 to take early retirement under the so-called "new reality." But, sure enough, it's there now, as Tawnell Hobbs noted this morning: "Consider and Take Possible Action to Approve an Early Notification Resignation Incentive of 15% of Annual Base Salary, Not to Exceed $10,000.00 for the First 1000 Contract Educators to Apply if They Notify the District in Writing by March 11, 2011 and Work Through the End of the School Year."

Teachers on probation, it should be noted, aren't eligible for the buyout offer, which the board would have to approve first. Tawnell's piece doesn't say, though, where the money will come from. So I asked Jon Dahlander, DISD spokesman, who says the up-to-$10-million in buyout offers will come directly from the general fund.

Dahlander says the agenda item was added late yesterday, though "it's been in the works for a while," he tells Unfair Park. "It's been a topic behind the scenes, and they wanted to get it on the board's agenda. And if the board approves this, the thinking is those individuals who take advantage of this may retire, or they may have other options available to them. They may be in a position where something like this is attractive to them."

But as several Friends of Unfair Park have pointed out since Tawnell's item went up a couple of hours ago, isn't the district worried that some of its best teachers will use the opportunity to jump ship now, lest they wind up being laid off before the budget's balanced in June? How, they wonder, will the district work to ensure its best teachers don't take the money and run?

"The board is working on coming up with the criteria for who ends up going first and who goes second," he says. "School districts have been grappling with that for a long time -- how do you determine the best teachers? We've been working with AFT and the Gates Foundation to determine the best tools to use for teacher assessment, and that's up for discussion in the middle of all of this."

I ask: What if, worst-case scenario, the 1,000 best teachers in the district decide to go?

"Hopefully, they don't," he says. "This is set up for people where retirement is on the horizon for them or they may have something else on the horizon. We'll see. But we have a lot of great teachers in the school district. A lot of them. The vast majority of them are very good teachers, and I'm thinking when this is all said and done, the vast majority will still be good teachers."

As for the possible $10-million expenditure, Dahlander reminds that there was a $63-million budget surplus following last school year, and at the moment, the district's projecting a $20-million budget surplus this year, which would put the fund balance back over $100 million.

The district, of course, doesn't want to touch that while it makes cuts -- for two reasons. One, says Dahlander, "it doesn't replenish itself -- unlike the state's Rainy Day Fund, which is funded by oil and gas proceeds." And, he reminds, former chief financial officer Larry Throm insisted the fund balance needed to reach closer to $150 million. "The goal for any school district is to be able to have two pay periods in the bank," says Dahlander.

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22 comments
StopDISDorg
StopDISDorg

DISD would rather offer their hard working teachers early retirement to ensure the contractors that are building new EMPTY schools are paid!

Bond tax dollars used to build new schools! That doesn't make sense!

Learn more at www.StopDISD.org

Click on the link below to view Satire Video on DISD's Land Grab

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

bbetzen
bbetzen

Is it true that Texas would have a budget surplus if all Texans paid the same percentage of their income in state and local taxes as do the 40% of Texans with the lowest incomes?

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

The BoT is likely grappling with the issue of who gets cut first bc if they do it by seniority, there goes TFA. All TFA will have to go or there will be unbelievable lawsuits.

Also, the Alternative Certification candidates pay the district around $4K to get certified. In other words, lots of them aren't even certified but are teaching. The district would have to cut them AND refund them their $4K.

Teachers at my building are raising these questions:-Are TFA eligible for the buyout-Let's say 1,001 teachers line up for the buyout that only 1,000 are supposed to get. How is the district going to prove that I was number 1001 and not number 999?-NCLB says the district has to have highly qualified teachers, but DISD will cut math and science teachers while keeping athletic coaches? Won't that violate the law?

LaceyB
LaceyB

"Best Teachers" are judged on what criteria? The same as the "Best Journalists"?

Preston Holler
Preston Holler

I note that the BoT isn't offering administration money to quit.

I can think of several reasons for this absence. One, Hiney doesn't want to lose any administrators. Two, the salaries of the adminstrators are so bloated that $10,000 is chump change to them and is no incentive to leave. Three, all of Hiney's huffing and puffing about the "New Reality" is simply scare tactics. Four, there isn't an Adminstrate for America such that a house cleaning of adminstrators allows Hiney to dole out political favors by enlisting replacement administators.

LifeinOC
LifeinOC

Did you ask Jon how much of the 20M surplus for this year is already spent? The document says contract educators. Does that mean teachers only? Will some be ready to retire administrators (loosely termed educator) or principals that will be replaced at little to no savings rather than teachers not being replaced?

Preston Holler
Preston Holler

Get this:

According to this article: "Teachers on probation, it should be noted, aren't eligible for the buyout offer, which the board would have to approve first." Then Dahlander later says: "The board is working on coming up with the criteria for who ends up going first and who goes second."

Here's a wild suggestion for the BoT and Hiney -- You've got some teachers on probation who are ineligible for the retirement bonus. If they are on probation, they should be the first ones to go.

Sheesh. How hard can it be?

The incompetence of the BoT and Hiney is astonishing.

I guess the Board wants to spend a couple million on consulting fees to figure this out.

Preston Holler
Preston Holler

Are the Teach for America people eligible for the $10,000?

It wouldn't suprise me at all if the DISD was stupid enough to give $10,000 to the TFAs so that they could finish padding their resumes a little early and go on grad school.

Guest
Guest

"The vast majority of them are very good teachers"

It's a veritable Lake Wobegon over at DISD.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

Seems to me that the teachers most likely to "have something else on the horizon" would be the most qualified teachers.

Preston Holler
Preston Holler

Bbetzen: Schools are financed through property taxes, not sales tax. And Texas doesn't have an income tax. It is highly doubtful that the 40% of Texans with the lowest income pay much if anything in property taxes (i.e. how many people in the lowest 25% of household income own their homes and/or have commercial property).

Instead, the top 60% of wage earners overwhelmingly pay that vast majority of property taxes and, thus, essentially fund all of the public schools in Texas.

If anything, the lowest 40% probably pay nothing (or next to nothing) towards school funding. If anyone is not "paying their fair share" towards public education in Texas, it is the lowest 40% of earners, not the top 60%.

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

Dahlander writes:

"Applies to principals too.

Administrators at district level are not on contracts."

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

In my earlier conversation with Dahlander, he said that $20 million has not yet been spent -- it's a predicted surplus, of course, but he mentioned that even after these buyouts occur, "We'll still be up $10 million."

And I've asked about the second part of your question. I will let you know what he says.

Evan
Evan

AFAIK, the majority of teachers on probation would be those in their 1st or 2nd year of teaching. In that instance, those are definitely the people you would want to restrict from taking this bonus and heading for greener pastures.

Michael MacNaughton
Michael MacNaughton

"The vast majority of them are very good teachers, and I'm thinking when this is all said and done, the vast majority will still be good teachers."

They just won't be employed....

Preston Holler
Preston Holler

Wylie H.:

You nailed it. Hiney is the most clueless manager ever. First, he annouces that class size is going to be 60 kids per room under the "New Reality." As a result any teacher worth his/her salt is thinking: "Screw that. I'm not going to be part of that mayhem. Time to update the resume and start contacting all my teacher friends in other districts to get the word out that I'm looking."

So, what happens now? Hiney comes up with the idea to pay teachers $10,000 to quit. Now, all those good teachers that are polishing up the resumes in order get off the sinking ship are thinking: "Yesssssssss. I'm getting the h*ll out of here AND they are going to give me a bonus to do so."

But is it any wonder that the DISD came up with this idea. After all, this is the BoT that saw Hiney apply for the Las Vegas gig and decided that this act of loyalty by Hiney showed he should have his contract extended.

Unbelievable.

Guest
Guest

True, but I doubt many teachers have anything else over the horizon that involve teaching. Everyone is laying people off, no districts are hiring. My guess is that this mostly entices teachers who are very close to retirement already. Some may be very good, but most will have just been around for a long time.

trashtalk
trashtalk

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Sales taxes at the state level are recycled into school monies. Property taxes at the local level usually underestimate many commercial buildings, and the poor pay property taxes through their rent.

It is true that wealthy North Dallas is paying the largest share of local property taxes and that they may utilize the local schools the least.

If anything, your thinking would support increasing sales taxes in Texas to cover most items, thereby allowing everyone to support public education.

There are home owners in West Dallas in the lowest income brackets who do own their own homes and contribute to local property taxes.

LifeinOC
LifeinOC

So who chipped in for the recent un-budgeted raises passed out to newly promoted Chiefs, to name only one of many unbudgeted items the BoT has passed?

LaceyB
LaceyB

As a trained, yet unemployed teacher, there are so few options, anyway: corporate "trainer" (usually temporary/contract), private tutor (best of the options), and tutor at an after-school center (min wage, temporary/seasonal). None are guaranteed, only the trainer is insured, but they want business experience in that field, and no one is hiring.My guess is that anyone who says they have something is "lined up" is all talk.

Michael MacNaughton
Michael MacNaughton

Using the District's logic you would take the most experienced employees of a company and pay them to leave because they cost too much. That is an economic decision that may or may not work.

But I believe this is a really lousy education decision.

There are, of course, many older teachers who have passed their prime and need to be eased out the door but this method doesn't separate the excellent teachers from the poor ones. I want the best teachers for my kid and I already pay their salary through my taxes. This slash and burn method of balancing the budget will have negative consequences with very far-reaching effects. It's an idea, but not a very good one.

Preston Holler
Preston Holler

Trash: You make some valid points. I could quibble on soem of what you say but I don't see where that gets us.

My issue was with Bbetzen's implied assertion that budgetary shortfalls are due to the top 60% not paying their "fair share" of taxes like the bottom 40% supposedly are. The plane fact of the matter is that the lion share of public education in Texas is finacned through real property taxation. And the lion's share of realy property is owned by the 60% wage earners in Texas. Thus, the lion's share of public education is paid by the top 60%, not the bottom 40%.

But in the big scheme of things, arguing over whether the top 60% or the bottom 40% pay more or less than their respective "fair share," isn't the REAL PROBLEM the manner in which Hinojosa and the BoT spend what they've got?

Stated another way, whether you up amount that the top 60% or bottom 40% pay, you are always going to have a problem with Hiney and the BoT unless you make some drastic changes. It's in their blood. Give 'em a $1 billion budget or a $2 billions budget, they'll find a way to spend it all (and then some) on construction contracts, travel expense, more admin assistants for Hiney, etc.

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