Teacher retirements, reductions increase dramatically

Kansas classrooms are losing teachers in record numbers, a report released Tuesday shows, and that is because of cuts to schools and changes in the public employee pension system, education officials said.

“There are a tremendous number of attacks going on against teachers today,” said State Board of Education Chairman David Dennis, a Republican from Wichita.

Dennis said low pay, increased pension costs and a push by Republican leaders to try to replace the current pension system and switch to a 401(k)-style plan are all factors.

“If I was in college right now looking at what I want to do with the rest of my life, I am not sure I would chose teaching as a profession,” said Dennis, who is a public school teacher.

In addition, the budget signed into law earlier this month by Gov. Sam Brownback will cut schools by about $100 million, according to the Kansas Association of School Boards. Base state aid will decrease $232 per student, to a 10-year low of $3,780 per student.

The new report showed dramatic increases in teacher retirements and layoffs — called reductions in force — in Kansas over the last two years when public school funding has been cut.

More than 1,500 teachers retired in the 2010-11 school year, as compared with a range of 1,028 to 1,092 over each of the four previous years, the report said.

Reductions in force totaled 350 this school year and 260 last year. The previous three years had reductions in force of 49, 21 and 7.

The statistics were in a report presented to the State Board of Education. And officials said those numbers may be low because they were collected in February.

Pamela Coleman, director of teacher education and licensure at the Kansas Department of Education, said teacher retirements have increased because “people wanted to retire to ensure that KPERS (Kansas Public Employees Retirement System) would be there in their retirement.”

By Scott Rothschild

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