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Bonus Offered for Teachers to Retire Early

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Los Angeles Unified School District is offering a $15,000 bonus to as many as 300 teachers who agree to retire early in an effort to reduce the number of extra teachers mistakenly hired last year, officials said Friday.

The retirement incentives, which must be approved by the school board, are intended to create openings for an estimated 230 surplus teachers, some of whom have been placed in classrooms with as few as a dozen students.

If the plan works, it could blunt embarrassment caused by the overhiring, which officials say has already cost the financially strapped district $2 million. The savings will hinge on finding willing retirees at the 50 or so schools that have extra teachers, district officials said.

“We are estimating a cost avoidance of $4 million if 300 teachers at the right schools and in the right subject areas choose to retire,” said Henry Jones, budget director for the Los Angeles Unified School District.

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Jones said he will not know the final overhiring cost until later this year. Supt. Bill Anton has told the board he will announce who is responsible for the hiring error.

Nearly 300 teachers had submitted applications by Friday afternoon for the early retirement bonuses. District officials said they will determine their eligibility next week.

School officials in November revealed they had overestimated the number of teachers needed to accommodate students who are bused from inner-city neighborhoods to less-crowded schools, mostly in the Westside and San Fernando Valley. The district in previous years had hired too few teachers at those schools.

Under its contract with teachers, district officials could have laid off extra instructors as late as a month after school started. But the district did not act in time and is obligated to pay the teachers through June.

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District officials in November backed down from a plan to remove the extra teachers from their classrooms and use them as substitute teachers, saving money that is normally spent on hiring substitutes.

But pressure from parents and the teachers union prompted Anton to order a delay until February. Many parents said their children were upset by the prospect of losing their teachers.

Since then, enrollment increases at elementary schools have reduced the number of extra teaching positions, district officials said.

There are still 124 teaching jobs at 46 schools that are slated to be cut because there are not enough students enrolled there, district records show.

At Sunland Elementary School in the San Fernando Valley, for example, the number of extra positions was reduced from five to two, district records show.

But parents and students remain upset.

“My son came home crying because he is losing his teacher, and he never cries,” parent Robin Way said this week. “How can you make a $2-million mistake like that?”


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