Teachers balk at state's early retirement program
East Lansing, MI – Teachers unions in Michigan are balking at the legislature's passage of a plan to prompt thousands of teachers and other school employees to retire. They say the measure is a disincentive that will end up costing more money than it will save.
The Michigan Education Association says the plan now heading to the governor's desk benefits too few people and comes too late in the school year to reap any real financial savings.
The measure requires non-retiring workers to pay an additional three percent of their pay towards retiree health care.
MEA president Iris Salters says that will especially strain employees at the lowest pay scales.
"When you talk about taking that off the top of what already is not a livable salary, then you've just completely devastated them on top of what they're contributing to their benefit package," Salters says.
Salters says MEA members already pay nearly four percent of their base pay towards their retirement plan, and those hired in last year pay more than six percent.
Lansing teachers union president Jerry Swartz says teachers are focused on wrapping up the school year, and that it will be difficult for some of them to give their notice of retirement by June 11, the state mandated deadline.
Swartz says as Lansing teachers continue to adjust next year's staffing levels, the early retirement program adds another complication.
"Layoff notices have been sent out to 100-plus teachers, and now we have another wrench being thrown in that says, wait a minute...we couldn't get it together earlier, now we're throwing it together and let's see what happens as far as people stepping forward," Swartz says.
Lawmakers say the plan will save the state more than $600 million next year by encouraging thousands of higher-paid school personnel to retire.