With only 17 days left until the start of school, 183 teachers in the St. Louis Public School (SLPS) system will suddenly be able to retire.
Governor Eric Greitens recently signed legislation that reduces retirement eligibility by two-and-a-half years, and it takes effect 11 days after the beginning of the school year. Now St. Louis public schools are working hard to deal with the fallout. And parents and educators we spoke with say they are worried.
“It's a ton of people right?” said Charles Burton, SLPS Interim Chief Human Resources Officer.
It may seem like a ton to Burton, but he is hoping for the best.
"We want to let the teachers know how valuable they are and ask them to continue this journey with us," he said.
But the SLPS system is also preparing for the worst.
"We're looking at better than or close to 10 percent of our staff of teachers that could potentially he be impacted by this," he said. “Even as we speak we still have staff members and principles working feverishly."
They are working to hire extra teachers in case some give notice. In fact, Burton said some potential replacements have already been hired.
"We have some contingencies in place," Burton said. "The superintendent has given us permission to over-hire and to have some surplus staff."
Still, it is a big job putting in place contingencies in case up to 183 teachers opt to take retirement
“Because we'd be having this conversation for that group of 183 people two-and-a-half years from now as opposed to right now,” he said.
All this because of the July 14 signing by Governor Greitens of Missouri Senate Bill 409. That law takes effect on Aug. 28, 11 days after school starts.
But it's the parents and grandparents who said they were really distressed.
“The thought is it's going to hurt the children and that's what we're worried about, the children, their education, and their well-being,” said Beverly Duncan, who registered a grandchild for classes.
She wondered whether there will be anyone to teach. Burton answered that teachers will be on hand.
“The district is going to make sure there is a qualified educator in front of their children every day and then there is an atmosphere conducive to teaching and learning,” he said.
The new early-retirement legislation affects not only teachers, but also all SLPS employees. Burton said teachers are a priority for the District because their presence has the most effect on children.
Burton said the district will notify teachers of their options when they report to work. The local teachers union was asked to comment on the new legislation but did not respond.