To the Editor:
Interesting how this newspaper portrayed taxpayers’ money flying out the door in School District 46.
Yes, previous teachers’ contracts in the Prairie Grove school district contained “retirement bonuses,” but those were removed during last year’s contentious contract negotiations.
There is a fixed pool of money allocated to staff compensation. The previous school board recommended that money be given to teachers in classrooms, not spent as gold watches for retiring teachers.
During strike negotiations, money the union wanted for retirement was instead put into teachers’ salaries. Now, at a board meeting, Board President Margaret Ponga proposed giving each retiring teacher $40,000 as an early retirement incentive. She stated that when you replace highly compensated retiring teachers, the new lower salaries save money. However, these teachers planned their retirement dates years ago. This incentive isn’t causing them to retire one day earlier than they already would have.
After heated debate, the board voted for a total compensation much lower than the president’s unbelievably generous offer. Still, up to $270,000 of our taxpayer money will now be given to seven retiring teachers as “thanks” for their years of service. Money spent in addition to what is in that teachers contract. Not one dime of that will impact our students.
While these teachers have done an awesome job in our district, why should they get $15,000-$30,000 retirement bonuses when our taxpayers don’t? Is this why teachers actively campaigned for this board in the last election?