Pittsburgh Teachers Offered Buyouts, Layoffs Still Expected

Pittsburgh Public Schools officials have approved a buyout offer for teachers, but since many are expected to refuse the package, triple-digit layoffs are still likely to occur effective next school year, writes Liz Navratil at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

A new analysis by Educators Preferred Corporation estimates that only around 25 of 1,200 eligible teachers are likely take the buyout, said Jody Spolar, chief human resources officer for Pittsburgh Public Schools.

This doesn't bode well for the district, which has to battle a growing operating deficit by reducing staff, closing some schools and adjusting feeder patterns. An estimated 398 positions are set to be cut in its 2012 budget.

"If we can get 10, 20 or 30 people who … were willing to go, that saves a furlough," Ms. Spolar said.

Nina Esposito-Visgitis, president of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, said:

"We wish it was a richer plan to make it more attractive, but we're happy to have a plan that would be helpful to some people who would like to try other things."

Both Ms. Spolar and Ms. Esposito-Visgitis predict that the scant interest is thought to be from a lack of health care benefits, making the plan only appealing to a small demographic who might be able to get health insurance through a spouse.

The exact timeline for the buyouts has not yet been scheduled. The district plans to send information about the buyouts to all eligible teachers sometime next month. Shortly after, they will be able to declare their intentions to take a buy-out, writes Navratil.

Ms. Spolar believes that by mid-March the district will be able to determine how many people will have to be furloughed, as by then they'll know how many teachers plan to take the buyouts and how many plan to retire.

"We're very concerned about the number of furloughs," Ms. Esposito-Visgitis said.

"It's something that keeps me up at night."

Board member Regina Holley said:

"I don't want to lose the senior leaders in our district. That to me seems like the group that you really want to keep."

Board member Thomas Sumpter has been vocal in his concern that the teachers who qualified for buyouts were "somewhat seasoned individuals" and their experience was of value to the district.

Both Mr. Sumpter and Ms. Holley voted against the buyout measure.

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