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Eureka teachers don't flock to buyout

By: Nathan Donato-Weinstein
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Lackluster interest has sunk a proposed buyout offer for teachers in the Eureka Union School District, officials said this week. Too few teachers applied for the early retirement plan to validate the compact, which was scheduled for approval at Thursday night's regular board meeting, officials said. Only one teacher who met the offer's qualification's applied for it, Superintendent Bob Schultz said. One other teacher, who did not meet the set qualifications, also applied. The offer would have paid teachers with at least 20 years of experience in public education a lump sum of $25,000 to accept an early retirement. But the program was only set to kick in if a minimum of five qualified teachers applied for it. Eureka officials were hoping to use the buyouts to cut costs as they face funding shortfalls associated with a tightening state budget and declining enrollment. We were trying to use it so potentially we wouldn't have to lay off as many of our newer teachers, Schultz said. Enrollment numbers have dropped from a peak of 4,260 in 2000 to roughly 3,880 this year. This year's student body numbers 110 fewer than last year's. The decline affects the district's budget because it receives less per-pupil funding from the state. Officials will now go back to the drawing board and may come back with a sweetened proposal next year, Schultz said. Eureka Union Teachers Association president Shelly Davis said teachers were not impressed with the proposed offer because those nearing retirement often stand to gain lifelong salary and health benefits that far outstrip the proposed offer through the state's retirement plan. It would have to be a lot more than $25,000, probably closer to a year's salary, with healthcare benefits, she said. If there was a better choice out there some teachers might have went for it. Board members have scheduled a special meeting to review the district's budget situation for 9 a.m. Monday at the district office, 5455 Eureka Road in Granite Bay.