DISD Trustee Flores On Why Paying Teachers $10,000 to Leave Is Ultimately a Real Bargain

Had a long talk with Dallas Independent School District trustee Edwin Flores today about a lot of things, some of which I'll get to tomorrow. But before tonight's board meeting, I figured it was worth sharing at least this one thing -- our chat about the proposal to pay the first 1,000 full-timers who sign up no more than $10,000 to leave early, pending the layoffs expected courtesy the state's $27 billion shortfall that'll gut funding for public education.

I asked the District 1 rep -- who's holding a budget town hall at E.D. Walker Middle School at 6:30 p.m. on March 3, mark it down -- how he plans to vote on the proposal. He said he didn't know yet. " I want to hear more," he said. (Update: The trustees votes to approve the deal, 8-1, but reduced the amount to $7 million total and changed the deadline to March 8.)

"This is a fact I do know, though: To dismiss or non-renew a teacher costs us $30,000 to $50,000 in legal fees," he says. "They're entitled under Chapter 21 of the Education Code to a notice of a hearing, which takes place in front of a certified independent hearing examiner. It's a mini-trial on why they should be terminated. They get to bring a lawyer, we get to bring a lawyer. They get to take a deposition, we get to take a deposition. And the hearings last two, three days. And we pay the examiner by the hour, and their decisions can run anywhere from 20, 30 to 50 pages. These things get out of control quickly, and then there's a hearing before the board. The lawyers have to get ready, and then they have to argue their case, and the trustees can give them their job back.

"Now multiply that by 1,000. Do the math. This is the system the state set up. So if you ask me, as a taxpayer, which one works better, it seems to me no issue. You have a signed release and the promise of up to $10,000 versus guaranteed $30,000 to $50,000. So to me, on its face, it's not illogical. The problem is people say, 'That's crazy, no one else is doing it.' ... I understand why people are sticker-shocked, but when you know what I know -- which is that these cost $30,000 to settle, because there's no guarantee of a win -- this is at least a third of that. This say it's a signed agreement and everyone walks away."

I asked Flores the same thing I asked DISD spokesman Jon Dahlander two days ago: Why would the district puts its future in the hands of its employees and risk letting some of its best teachers take the money and run? At which point Flores brought up his proposal to change the district's reduction-in-force policy. Which I'll get to tomorrow, because he's providing docs -- which, believe it or not, he wants feedback on.


This, ultimately, was his response to that question.

"We lose 30 teachers a week, about," he says. "Between 20 and 30 a week. I had one leave W.T. White last week who wants to get their Ph D. Or they leave because they're having a baby. Or they're moving out of town because their husband or wife got a job. Or they hate their principal. The system is so big when you're dealing with 11,000 teachers, your weekly turnover is enormous. Last time, in 2008, after all those layoffs, within 10 weeks there were 300 openings. If you worry about the one or the two you won't do anything. You'd be so shell-shocked you won't move forward. Is it possible we'll lose great teachers. Yeah. And some bad teachers. Probably.

"But if they sign this, they'll agree not to file for unemployment. That's part of the deal. So it's focused more on retiring, and if I'm a young teacher, I am like, 'Thank you.' Because they're making a spot for the younger teachers."

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky