More than 30 experienced educators in Rapid City Area Schools won't be back in the classroom next year.
The Board of Education will vote tonight to approve the early retirement requests of 33 teachers as well as three traditional retirements. Teachers have until May to apply for early retirement, said Dave Janak, business manager for the district.
"This is just the ones that want early retirement to start in July," he said.
Last year, the district lost more than 50 teachers to early retirement. Several spoke publicly about their decision, citing the growing social, political and financial pressure on the state's education system as a major factor in their decision.
Since the 2008-2009 school year, early retirements in the district have steadily increased. About 30 took the early retirement option that year, 33 in the 2009-2010 school year and 38 in the 2010-2011 school year.
Rapid City Area Schools offers teachers between the ages 55 and 62 with at least 12 years of employment with the district a buy-out option. The option is factored on a base salary of about $30,000 and paid out over three years.
Educators in the Rapid City district and the state as a whole have faced dwindling funding, beginning with $52 million in state funding cuts in 2011. Locally, the cuts resulted in major changes to education, including the elimination of the middle school organizational approach and the loss of more than 30 positions through attrition. Last year, they also faced major education reform proposals from Gov. Dennis Daugaard.
Rejected by teachers, the reform package was brought to a public vote and defeated in November. The reform would have eliminated the state's mandate for continuing contract, create a merit system and establish bonuses for math and science teachers.
Janak said while retirements often save a district money, it costs it in other ways.
"You can't replace that experience in the classroom with a new teacher," he said.