Cuomo's departure from his daily COVID briefings allows him and the state's top leaders to focus on the other pressing issues of government. Those issues include long overdue social justice, finding a way to grow the economy after the COVID collapse and finding ways to plug to the $61 Billion dollar hole in the state budget. The governor still has huge emergency powers at his disposal and will probably decide each and every item associated with these challenges himself (and he'll be doing it behind closed doors and away from the press).
One such item that must be decided? A buyout: An Early Retirement Incentive for NYS, and in particular, NYC teachers. The UFT president indicated that every single public employees union in New York City has asked for an early retirement incentive this year in order to help balance the New York budget and avoid any layoffs (retirement shifts a teacher's salary burden from the budget to the pension system, thus alleviating the burden on the budget). Early retirement is absolutely not a guarantee and almost any talk about it would be a little distracting. But a quick look back into history, just to review how both of those incentives looked, is definitely worth a. little time.
(I used the NY Times website to look these up. You may need to be logged in to view these links).
There were two early retirement incentives during the 1990s. One was offered in 1991 and another in 1995. These could serve as pretty good points of reference because both came as a result of enormous city and state governments budget deficits similar to what the city and state are facing today.
In 1991, an early retirement incentive was offered to any teacher who was 55 years old *or* had 30 years of experience. Those folks (and only those folks) were able to get three years of retirement credit added to their pension. Teachers had just 4 weeks -between June 5th to July 5th- to decide to retire by September. Here's what the Times wrote about it back then
"Under the retirement plan, teachers who are at least 55 years old or have at least 30 years of service who choose to retire by July 5 can have a maximum of three extra years of service added to their pensions.
... A 55-year-old elementary school teacher who worked for 25 years would, upon retirement, normally get 50 percent of her last year's salary plus 1.7 percent more for each year of service beyond her 20th. Thus her pension would amount to 58.5 percent of her last year's salary...
With the incentive, the teacher would get credit for three more years at 1.7 percent a year -- a total of to 63.6 percent of her final year's salary."
That buyout eventually lead
"... 4,200 teachers and 700 principals and supervisors ..." to retire early -about 8% of the teaching corps and just over 12% of the money used to pay teachers (because, don't forget, old teachers cost more to pay). It led to some teaching vacancies the following Fall.
But it's worth noting that this also led to an increase
in the number of school leaders who were women and who were persons of color and, to that end, represented a very real turning point in the process of who
led city schools. Eventually, the city did hire roughly 2000 new teachers
for the Fall and that helped to create a younger teaching corps for the city. (A younger teaching corps in our time of 2020 would almost certainly guarantee the creation of a more diverse teaching corps; more folks who are persons of color and less folks who are white).
The 1995 buyout was open to anyone who was over 50 and had at least 10 years of experience
"Under the plan, retirees get an extra month of service credit for each year they have worked, up to a maximum of three years. A teacher who had worked for 24 years could take the incentive and walk away with two extra years of credit toward the pension [retiring with 26 years of service toward their pension]. So far, those who have are taking early retirement are typically 55 or older, make about $60,000 and have at least 20 years of experience, board officials said."
While open to anyone over 50, the buyout was really geared toward anyone who was older than 55 and had at least 25 years in the system. It just didn't make much sense for very many others to take advantage of. The 1995 buyout agreement came along with a guarantee of no layoffs for three years and it's estimated that around 3,200 teachers took it. We have a much younger teaching corps in 2020. It would be interesting to see if something like this would work.
There are other issues to think about as well. Both incentives came during a budget climate that left both city schools and the teacher union with deep scars that lasted for more almost a decade.
Also; both buyouts saw teachers who did not qualify for the incentive return to a very difficult environment in schools. With no budget money beyond basic salaries and very little opportunities for the children they teach beyond regular classes (which, themselves, were badly underfunded), the following school years held little prospect for anything beyond the bare minimum of educating. I don't suffer bare minimum very well and many teachers who work well into the night don't either.
In both cases, the teachers who were left also faced the very real possibility of painful layoffs. In order to avoid layoffs in 1991, teachers voted to take a pay cut of 1.5% of their salaries, in the form of a loan, to help the system balance its bud
get. That money was to be paid back in later years. In 1995, the UFT negotiated a no layoff agreement for three years, but then negotiated a contract for 0% wage increases and faced a near insurrection from among their members as a result. All that for no layoffs (and, in 1991, for the guarantee that the buyout would be supported by the head of the NYC school system).
And there was other fallout. In 1995 (a year that was, surely, a mess for city schools), the UFT was left with a large portion of angry teachers who, not qualifying for the buyout offer, became more active within the union. Many of those teachers organized a "vote no" campaign against that 0% contract -and won. At the end of the day, the budget woes caused the largest (by number) and longest (by years) anti-leadership movement in the teacher union's history. That movement has still not settled down to this day. That's how deep the damage was in 1995.
So, if a buyout is offered in 2020 -and it may not be offered at all- it may resemble either of these incentives. Would either of these work for you? Neither of them work for me.
If you were you around during the 1991 or 1995 incentives and feel like I missed something, drop a comment and let me know. I'll update in the main section.