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Teachers Opting for Early Retirement

Stressed-out educators fill out retirement papers sooner than they had planned

By Mola Lenghi
|  Wednesday, Nov 2, 2011  |  Updated 7:35 PM CDT
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Teachers are retiring in record numbers and some are making a career of helping educators manage the retirement process.

Mola Lenghi/Arlington Journalist

Teachers are retiring in record numbers and some are making a career of helping educators manage the retirement process.

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The added workload created by state budget cuts is resulting in a record number of teacher retirements.

Teachers say their profession is not what it used to be.

"We're seeing a big, dramatic change, and so teachers are stepping out in record numbers," said Derik Hayenga, chief of staff for the United Educators Association.

Many are filling out retirement papers sooner than they had planned.

"We're going to have a very big void to fill -- not just in Arlington, not just in Texas, but as a nation -- because we're losing a core group of valued, skilled educators that have survived the fire. We're about to lose them."

Dick Powell, a retired Arlington schoolteacher who helps teachers with the retirement process, said hundreds of teachers in the last two years cited stress when talking about retirement.

He said it's product of simple math -- more work, less time.

"[The stress] manifests itself in paperwork, lesson plans taking five to six hours to do, increased class sizes, loss of conference periods, micromanaging, discipline issues being pushed back onto teachers," Powell said.

Hayenga said teachers are "getting beat up."

"With the cuts, we've seen support removed from teachers," he said.

Employees who could help with paperwork have been eliminated, and management above teachers is also being stretched, Hayenga said.

"Now the teachers are leaving and saying, 'Get me out of here,'" he said.

Pay can often be an incentive to stick around, but the Arlington Independent School District, like districts across the state, says bonuses or salary increases are unlikely for the foreseeable future.

When cuts in budgets, resources, support and pay are combined with a widespread dislike for mandatory programs such as No Child Left Behind, many teachers would rather move on.

Teachers say they dislike No Child Left Behind because of its focus on tests, which causes them to lose one-on-one time with students.

Some teachers do not even wait for the school year to end before leaving.

"I've never worked before with teachers retiring at semester, and they just say, 'We've started this year, and we've had it, and at semester, we're leaving,'" Powell said.

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