This post has been updated.

Nearly 530 teachers in the San Diego Unified School District volunteered to retire next year – and they will get 100 percent of their final annual salary for doing so.

The early retirement incentive was supposed to be a money-saving move by the cash-strapped district, which is trying to plug a $124.4 million hole in its 2017-18 budget. But district documents show the payout will actually begin costing the district money in two years.


According to a district chart posted for Thursday night’s board meeting, after saving $3 million next school year, the retirements will save less than half that the following year.

In total, the retirements and payouts that come with them will save the district $4.48 million in the first two years, but will cost $5.12 million the following three years, for a net loss of more than $635,600, district documents show.

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When the early retirement incentive was approved by the school board Feb. 28, it was conditioned on enough eligible teachers taking the deal, and that it would “generate net savings, or no net cost, to the district’s General Fund-Unrestricted, in the initial year of implementation and cumulatively over five years,” the action item said, which was approved unanimously.

Though it appears the move would now cost the district over five years, staff is nonetheless recommending the school board approve the incentive Thursday night at a special meeting. The agenda item says it is “not a 2017-18 Budget Solution” and that it aims “to mitigate the effect of the layoffs.”

“The $600K (cost) is less than a percentage point out of the district’s $1.3 (billion) budget, and worth it to the district to save a large number of teacher layoffs,” district spokeswoman Shari Winet said in an email.

It is not yet clear how many teacher layoff notices will be rescinded thanks to the retirements. Though the school board is scheduled to rescind some teacher layoffs, specific information had not yet been posted publicly by Thursday morning.

More than 1,500 district employees of all kinds were issued layoff notices in recent months. Getting a handle on exactly how many people received pink slips has been a struggle, thanks to mixed information reported by district officials. Included in the hundreds of teachers scheduled to be laid off: 266 general subject elementary school teachers, 159 special education teachers, 42 English teachers, 30 visual and performing arts teachers and 27 foreign language teachers.

According to an analysis by Voice of San Diego, the 20 district schools where the most teachers were facing layoffs are overwhelmingly poor.

To qualify for the early retirement incentive – which offered 100 percent of a year’s salary paid out incrementally over five years – teachers had to have spent at least five years working for the district and be eligible to retire from the state pension systems, according to the agreement reached with the teachers’ union earlier this year.

Update: This post has been updated to include a statement from the district.

    This article relates to: Education, Must Reads, School Finances

    Written by Ashly McGlone

    Ashly is an investigative reporter for Voice of San Diego. She can be reached at or 619.550.5669.

    Jay Byrd
    Jay Byrd

    This system is due to fail.  After years of failure to say NO to teachers, the costs have grossly exceeded the income.  Now they continue to mistakenly see this early retirement scheme as a cost savings.  So add more red ink to the future to appease the teacher's union. 

    Now, saying that.  This is the same Board that was very vocal about "the Wall" being built and the better treatment of illegals.  Why?  To increase the enrollment?  WHY????  They want full classrooms of non-taxpayer's kids?  They don't see this as a problem?  

    I foresee the argument of "It is for all of the children".  Tired of that one.  How about it is for "The kids that we really owe an education"? We cannot continue to educate the world when our system is dying.  

    George in BayHo
    George in BayHo subscriber

    The school district is funded by property taxes.  Property tax receipts (inflation adjusted & per capita) are higher than before Proposition 13.  Pay no attention to bungling officials, they have criminally mismanaged the taxpayers' properties, and failed our children.

    John Kennett
    John Kennett subscriber

    Maybe the thinking is " Save money now, fix the problem later" We can always hope :) I would think that teachers will get some kind of percentage raise in salary by year 5. Those who took the SERP will not get that raise , only the lower paid teachers who remain . Is that not a fair assumption?? Maybe there will be some savings after all.

    EducatedMom subscribermember

    @John Kennett Sadly, it's just that kind of thinking that got the district into the financial crisis it's in right now.  The district is looking at nothing but looming costs--dramatic increases in CalSTRS and CalPERS pension payments (from 12.58% 10 19.1% and 13.89% to > 21.6%, respectively) over the next five years, increases in payroll due to Step (approximately 2.5% annually)  & Column, increases in health and welfare benefits (7% annually), etc.--while state spending on education is plateauing.  Using "savings" now will just create a series of budget crises--and cuts--for the foreseeable future.

    EducatedMom subscribermember

    The list of rescinded reduction in force (485 people) was posted as part of the Board agenda at$file/Rescinded%20Reduction%20in%20Force%20Notices%20List%205.11.2017%20-%20Att%20A.pdf

    That said, it's not clear whether these were all due to a 1:1 match of positions to those vacated by the SERP or whether it was also because elementary prep time was restored (which the district hasn't publicly stated but is stated on the SDEA website). It's also not clear whether these reductions are part of assumption #3 "100% replacement of positions" since the numbers aren't the same (485 rescinded vs. 528 taking SERP).  It does seem to include those that the administrative law judge deemed to be rescinded.