You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Sun, Aug 29, 2010 : 5:57 a.m.

State incentives lure many experienced Ann Arbor-area teachers into retirement

By Kyle Feldscher

Before this year’s budget cycle, Bob Brown had no plans to retire.

Working in the planning center at Forsythe Middle School in Ann Arbor, he was doing something he loved with no intention of getting out in the near future. However, when the planning center, where students go to work out problems, was cut from the district’s budget and the state of Michigan offered retirement incentives, he decided it was time to go.

“I wasn’t going back into the classroom and if I had the opportunity to retire and not take a job away from younger teachers, I decided, ‘Hey, why not retire?’” the 40-year district employee said.


Bob Brown

Brown was one of about 100 Ann Arbor Public Schools teachers who took the incentives the state offered them to retire this year. District spokeswoman Liz Margolis said about twice the number of teachers retired this year compared to normal summers

“We usually have about 30 to 45 a year,” Margolis said.

The same is true in districts across Washtenaw County. Teachers retired at rates much higher than normal.

Brown had spent the last four years working at Forsythe in the planning center, a part counseling and part disciplinary role in which he worked with students who had behavior problems. Before that he taught social studies for 23 years at Huron High School, where he coached baseball and was involved in numerous student activities, and spent 13 years at Roberto Clemente Student Development Center, an Ann Arbor alternative high school.

He’s now working with the Master of Arts Certification (MAC) Program at the University of Michigan, helping students who are attempting to get teaching certificates and master’s degrees.

“The MAC program was something I had thought about previously,” he said. “It just kind of worked out where they had an opening this year.”

Related article

The Michigan Legislature passed the incentive package in May in an effort to save hundreds of millions of dollars in operating costs in teacher salaries. The plan increased pension benefits for teachers who retired between July 1 and Sept. 1, aiming to get older, higher-paid teachers to retire to make way for younger, cheaper teachers.

In addition to the 100 teachers in Ann Arbor who retired this summer, another 30 teachers accepted a one-year deferment on the incentive package, Margolis said. Those teachers will still get the pension incentives to retire, but will work during the 2010-11 school year.

In Ypsilanti, 34 teachers and a total of 85 staff members district-wide retired, spokeswoman Emma Jackson said.

“This is not normal, it’s exceptionally high,” Jackson said. “We usually don’t have anything near those type of retirement numbers. It just leaves a deep void.”

Jackson said Ypsilanti High School was hit particularly hard with a number of experienced and popular teachers choosing to retire. Among the retirees was Pat DeRossett, former principal of Estabrook Elementary School who had more than 40 years of experience as a teacher and principal.

Scot Graden, superintendent of Saline Area Schools, said his district saw 23 teachers retire and 39 total retirements, including support staff and administrators. He said just three of those teachers have been replaced, saving the district about $1 million in operating costs.

However, he said those savings come at a price.

“From an institutional standpoint, it’s a significant loss,” Graden said. “I did the math and among those 39 staff members we lost over 1,000 years of experience within the district. Those of us still here need to be cognizant of that. A lot of knowledge walked out the door.”

Dexter Interim Superintendent Mary Marshall voiced a similar concern, but she said there's a silver lining too.

Her district had 20 teachers retire and is replacing 12 of them with younger teachers that, while inexperienced, were refreshingly enthusiastic.

“When we meet these teachers, they’re ready to take on the world,” she said. “We meet them and see their enthusiasm and we get recharged and even though were busier than ever, we’re really excited for the new year. We have some really talented candidates coming in.”

Marshall said her district was looking to save between $650,000 and $700,000 in teacher salaries. This was the first year since the recession began that more than one teacher retired and a normal number in earlier years was about four or five per year.

“This is huge, unlike anything we’ve seen before,” she said.

Burt Emerson, a financial consultant for Willow Run Community Schools, said the district saw 12 teachers retire, which he estimated was twice the normal rate. However, he said the full savings of those retirements are not being realized.

He said the savings estimates originally provided did not take into account the cost of calling back laid-off teachers before hiring new teachers, something required by collective bargaining agreements. One teacher who was recalled after being laid off actually makes more money than one of the district’s retirees, he said.

“There’s only one unadulterable law of economics, and that’s there’s no such thing as a free lunch,” Emerson said. “The downside to calling people back is the presumption that we were getting a senior teacher at the top of the schedule to go away, avoiding the tippy top salary, replacing with a rookie salary. That doesn’t hold if you have to call people back.”

Whitmore Lake Superintendent Kimberly Hart said her district had nine teachers retire this year. Eight of those were elementary school teachers and one was at the high school level.

Milan Community Schools had about 10 teachers retire with 26 district employees retiring overall, said Superintendent Bryan Girbach. He said the district is hiring back about five positions with special certifications, but the retirements are allowing the district to shrink its staff.

“What it really did in Milan is allow us to downsize our staff without having to lay off,” he said. “We are hiring a few positions … with a special education or art teacher, you can’t just slide another person in there.”



Tue, Aug 31, 2010 : 6:56 a.m.

Regarding staffing levels, follow the math. The superintendent stated he would need 50 teacher reductions to make his budget, abut $5 million. Partly due to the 3% paid by teachers as part of the early retirement incentive, 100 teachers retired. If everyone is replaced this is a savings of $4 million due to the difference in pay between new hires and retirees. The direct concessions from the AAEA amount to about $2 million or so (1% is about $1 million, see the superintendent presentation and do some calculations). $4 million + $2 million =$6 million, the superintendent was asking for $5. It is unclear how the delay of step increases and the increase in required pension contributions by the district impacts this, but it appears there is about $1 million reduction in total teacher comp while maintaining the SAME staffing levels. If the districts opts to reduce the overall number of teachers in the classroom this is a district decision and can in no logical way be blamed on the AAEA. Perhaps the only explanation the AAEA needs to make is why they gave an extra $1 million in concessions, I surmise it is to keep the equity fund at level that prevents forcing the district to borrow money from the state (a common practice in other districts) and paying interest on it which reduces the amount of money available to educate the students.


Mon, Aug 30, 2010 : 12:06 p.m.

The state retirement incentive obviously worked. It was not designed to "fix" the unfunded pension program, it was designed to assist districts with the immediate issues they faced (the legislature still must address this issue, but it is somewhat removed from the immediate conversation). In the district's "Draft Budget Reduction Plan", found on the AAPS web site, the proposed cuts relative to the AAEA members was 50.7 positions assuming no additional cuts from the state (none came). Clearly the union was aware of this, and one can only assume they were keeping close tabs on the retirement numbers. The union could have simply said "The state helped us out, you've got your 51 you needed(through attrition) and another 50 or so on top of that." The need to replace retirees with new hires results in about a 40k or so savings per year (see the AAEA contract), 40k x 50 = 2 million. If we assume about 100k per teacher times 50 position cuts, that is another 5 million. A total of 7 million out of the teacher pay line (by the way fewer teachers means more work for those that remain). The union at that point could have taken the position that the teachers had a 3% pay reduction (call it whatever you want, it's 3% less in teacher's pay, not a broad based income tax shared by all) from the state and that met the stated needs of the district. The union did not do this. They went beyond. A 2% across the board pay reduction and a sacrifice of step increases. Again, count the steps or not as a pay reduction, its 5-10% less income per teacher based on previously agreed compensation. This contract was overwhelmingly approved by the teachers. Maybe the teachers are as dumb as some people like to state, or maybe they are concerned about the liquidity of the district and the education of the students. By the way, if you are visiting the AAPS web site you may want to link to the story that indicated the district was ranked in the top 10 for medium sized cities, it'll make you feel better about living in A2.


Mon, Aug 30, 2010 : 10:50 a.m.

@SH1, of course they won't acknowledge the teachers presence in their classrooms this month. They have an agenda and are keeping to it. Those of you talking about pensions and pay raises should look to your legislature. They do their term limited time and you the tax payer get fleeced for their benefits. Teachers give us a lifetime of service and work, yet a politician can do a term in office and escape with the same thing. One other area to comb through are judges. Judges can sit for one term and collect benefits for life. Certainly, those are much more egregious examples than a person who goes into a low paying profession, compared to many of their other co-horts from their graduating class, and endeavor to teach your children, and put up with your attitudes.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Mon, Aug 30, 2010 : 10:19 a.m.

OK, I'm getting annoyed enough to post, against my better judgment. 1) Last year's contract had a pay freeze for teachers, except for those (less than half) who got step increases. These are usually small. 2) This year's contract includes new days of work that are unpaid. This is a cut for all teachers. Those still eligible for step increases do not receive them until 3/4 of the way through the year. The first is a cut, the second is a delay, but only applies to part of the work force. Anyone with 13+ years of service is no longer eligible for step increases. As a matter of fact, the recent contracts have reflected best-practices thinking in that step increases are focused almost entirely on those with less than ten years of service, with a last bump at 13 years. This encourages new teachers to stay in the profession. After 13 years, no one gets anything unless there is a general increase. This is quite different from other school districts around the country, where pay bumps are larger for senior teachers so as to inflate their "final average compensation" as computed for pensions. 3) It was not the AAEA that chose how many retirees would be replaced. The retirement incentives were implemented by the state Legislature, as a way of helping out school districts without raising new revenue; this effectively kicked the problem down the road (read: after election day). Had all the retirees been replaced, it would have rendered moot most of the benefit. This was a calculation made by AAPS leaders, not the AAEA. 4) AlphaAlpha: you continue to cite BLS statistics (which I do not believe you have fully described in terms of table numbers and so on) to show that AAPS teachers are overpaid. But your sole evidence for this is that they are well above the median pay level. So are many professionals. So what? Is this evidence that teachers are overpaid but accountants are not, or is it rather evidence that our society is becoming less equal and that many people who deserve a living wage are not getting one? In either case, it doesn't address the question of why Ann Arbor teachers do not deserve what they make. Especially when the comparison you are making is for those at the absolute top of the AAPS pay scale. Saying it repeatedly does not make it true, though that tactic has been very effective in the past.

Steve Pepple

Mon, Aug 30, 2010 : 7:33 a.m.

A comment was removed because it contained a personal attack against another commenter.


Mon, Aug 30, 2010 : 7:10 a.m.

@aataxpayer: Even though this article doesn't say it, teachers in the AAEA took a substantial hit in order to save their colleagues from lay-offs. In the end, no one was laid off and the district actually hired new teachers.


Mon, Aug 30, 2010 : 6:05 a.m.

How about takeing all Goverment Employees Pentions away and back into the TAX Payers pocket. Teachers are over payed with massive under acheivements as far as class room performance goes. Every teacher I know whines about how rugh they have it, try working in the real world when your poor performance would cost you your job! For me the public school system is a typical poorly run extention of Goverment failure. My children will definately be going to Private Schools. Also ALL TEACHERS SHOULD BE DRUG TESTED ON A RANDOM BASIS. I know several high ons that are Public School Teachers and I don't want people like that influinceing my childern.


Sun, Aug 29, 2010 : 11:22 p.m.

@EMRG, Reading your 2nd most previous post bro! "busted" Scylding busted you a week ago numerous times for the same thing. Let's get together for a coffee, not at Starbucks. Come to Saline and let's give "Drowsy Parrot" a local Saline hangout some business. I figured I would offer that up since you so much hate "corporate America". Seriously, on my dime, let's have a coffee or we can go to Dan's Tavern and have a beer. Maybe will join in the fun?


Sun, Aug 29, 2010 : 11:18 p.m.

The retiement incentive law is actually a royal F-up and will be for years to come. The law now puts much stricter limits on people who would work as substitute teachers. Previously there was a limit of 90 days from the date of retirement which someone would not be allowed to be employed by a school system. Now providers like PESG are also included in that and the limit was increased substantially. For thse that think, oh you can just get another job. It is not nearly that simple. You can't get a job in a field you have experience in. The ban on taking jobs in K-12 education applies to all districts in the state and IIRC now also limits out of state employment in education as well. The other reason this is a F-up is the cost savings will not be realized like the state thinks they will. I am waiting to find out what the true cost to the school districts will be in required contributions the next few years. Remember someone has to pay into the system to pay for all these retirees that took the buyout. that will fall right back to the school systems. School retirement system is not as simple and easy to figure as everyone thinks it is or as the proponents of this idea want the general public to believe it is. I would be in 5 years all of the cost savings from this "great plan" will have evaporated and this will turn out to be nothing more than a 5 year bandaid with no real solution.


Sun, Aug 29, 2010 : 10:22 p.m.

@AlphaAlpha, "stay on topic" Cause he can't, allows name calling like "conserva-logic" but censors most of our posts. @Eddie, eliminating a "scheduled increase", " is not a paycut, it is keeping the pay level where it was, static. Taking the Bush tax cuts where taxpayers have "enjoyed" higher incomes for the past years and reducing their incomes, is truly a pay cut. How do you not understand that? Fairly simple concept to understand as long as can do your math!


Sun, Aug 29, 2010 : 8:47 p.m.

Why don't you want to stay on topic?


Sun, Aug 29, 2010 : 7:48 p.m.

@SH1 - One of them does not, others do.


Sun, Aug 29, 2010 : 7:29 p.m.

Don Bee, those clauses in the contract do not affect the current year.


Sun, Aug 29, 2010 : 6:26 p.m.

The reality of the teacher contract is we don't know what they will or will not end up with for a salary increase or decrease this year. There are clauses in the contract that rely on the final amount of money the school district gets. If the budget stands as is, there will be small cuts in their take home pay. Since we don't have the facts on the cost of insurance or some other benefits, we don't know if the Total Compensation (not take home pay) will go up or down on average. It will be next summer before we get an accounting report that we can use to determine what the final result of the contract is. For many newer teachers in the district the important thing is they will have jobs and for many of the students in the district, teachers they worried about will be back. I see information on 100 teachers retiring, and 30 who can under this program, what I don't see is how many teachers resigned and left the district. Specifically how many took jobs in other districts teaching. It would be interesting to find out.


Sun, Aug 29, 2010 : 6:09 p.m.

Eddie - Federal tax cuts are irrelevant to this discussion. It would be helpful if you stay on topic.


Sun, Aug 29, 2010 : 4:39 p.m.

So much misinformation, so confidently spouted. Teachers took a hit in three ways: Snow days (minimum of two) are now unpaid days. If the district has no snow days, teachers will work two unpaid days regardless. Two personal days are allowed also, but unpaid. There are some rules for how teachers MAY be able to get the money back when they leave the district, but low caps make this iffy. The teachers who would have gotten step increases must wait until 3/4 of the way through the year to collect. This is in addition to the 3% going to the state. Last year there was no raise. In the meantime, if you have looked in a school parking lot this month, you will see it is full of cars. In the month of August teachers volunteer to go back to their classrooms early to get things ready for your kids. How about giving them a break from the criticism for a while.


Sun, Aug 29, 2010 : 4:27 p.m.

I agree with Joyce. But, at the same time, there are teachers out there (not yet retired) who are looking for full time employment and who really appreciate the PESG jobs.


Sun, Aug 29, 2010 : 4:16 p.m.

"Cuts from a scheduled increase? To most, that is not a cut." A cut would be a net reduction, say, from the current 94th percentile of all wage earners (A2 teachers per BLS) to, say, the 93rd percentile of all wage earners.


Sun, Aug 29, 2010 : 3:14 p.m.

So it isn't a Obama tax increase but a Bush tax increase put in by the GOPers 10 years ago. Also as per the law if a tax cut is more that 10 years it has to be paid for by a tax increase some place else or a cut in spending. Where are the GOPers going to cut 1 trillion dollars in spending or raise taxes someplace else?


Sun, Aug 29, 2010 : 3:14 p.m.

It is a fallacy to think that new teachers will suddenly increase the test scores. It takes a good 3 to 5 years to really know the craft of teaching well. During this time many new teachers change grade levels, leave the profession, or crash and burn in their job because of the workload, large class sizes, parents or they don't like the job. Losing an experienced and committed teacher because the State of Michigan can not adequately fund schools appropriately is bad for everyone. Stop assuming everything can be solved with a test score. Instead of making such statements, contact your state rep to adequately deal with the budget issues of this state instead of raiding the education budget or coming up with these insane schemes that force teachers to retire.


Sun, Aug 29, 2010 : 1:08 p.m.

I wonder if the test scores (the only way we have to grade teachers) will increase now that we have retired the "seasoned teachers"? Change can be tough but we need new blood in the system!


Sun, Aug 29, 2010 : 12:27 p.m.

"For me this does not make up the difference of my loss of SS income because I will be taking early SS beneftis." With your 'education and experience' you can easily get a new job. Thus, no loss in SS benefits. It is your choice. "3% contribution to the retirement health care fund" Oh, the humanity... "So, I retired, with the state incentive, but cannot come back to work as someone with recent experience. This doesn't seem right." Agreed, it isn't. There should not have been an early retirement plan. Teacher wages should have been reduced. Perhaps from the 94th percentile (A2) to the 92nd percentile? This would allow for better working conditions via reduced class size, keeping some of our very best faculty at work, etc.

Joyce Bowser

Sun, Aug 29, 2010 : 11:37 a.m.

alas, there is another downside. Retirees with an effective retirement date of July 1, 2010 CANNOT be hired as a substitute if the school district uses a third party provider for this service. PESG is a third party provider for substitutes in the Washtenaw and Livingston county areas. So, I retired, with the state incentive, but cannot come back to work as someone with recent experience. This doesn't seem right.


Sun, Aug 29, 2010 : 11:32 a.m.

The "generous retirement incentive" is determined by a teacher's years of experience in a Michigan public school. The average is somewhere around $2000 more a year in retirement income. For me this does not make up the difference of my loss of SS income because I will be taking early SS beneftis. But the "penalties" that have been put in place gave me the added nudge to retire...3% contribution to the retirement health care fund, but there is no guarantee that the retirement system has to pay heath care benefits in years to come. The State also put in a 30 year cap on the number of years of service that a teacher can have in the retirement system. so those bright new teachers have a disincentive to work beyond 30 years, which for them seems like a long time and it sounds attractive to be able to retire at 50 something. But the reality is that for this group of young people their SS age has been pushed up to 70. So many of us did "choose" to retire but what is the real savings or cost?


Sun, Aug 29, 2010 : 11:29 a.m.

Cuts from a scheduled increase? To most, that is not a cut.


Sun, Aug 29, 2010 : 10:12 a.m.

It would be nice to see some specific numbers on this especially geneoous retirement 'incentive' package. A2 teachers, at total compensation of over $103,000 per year, are in the 94th percentile nationwide for salaries (per BLS). It would be interesting to know whether the this enhanced retirement package keeps this protected class in an even higher percentile bracket... Paying more for less. Your tax dollars at work...


Sun, Aug 29, 2010 : 10:06 a.m.

"A loss of salary"? Do you mean a loss of some, not all raises? From's "Ann Arbor teachers ratify new contract without pay raise": "The contract is the first in district's history to not include a pay raise. However, many teachers will still be paid more this year than last year due to step increases tied to education and years of service."


Sun, Aug 29, 2010 : 10:04 a.m.

It looks like the money is going to be coming to the schools after all. So all those cuts were not needed this year. Shame. Teachers will be getting their give backs and will have two extra free days off, for a total of 22 off a school years, so they didn't come out so bad in this, though it remains to be seen what the work load is with all those teachers retirements.

Dr. I. Emsayin

Sun, Aug 29, 2010 : 8:51 a.m.

Ann Arbor teachers settled their contract with loss of salary to keep teachers from being laid off. It looks like those teachers would have been back in the classroom anyway given the number of retirements. Certainly the new teachers would not have been laid off for more than one year, given the additional 30 retiring at the end of the coming school year.