North Texas school districts are offering teachers and other staffers thousands of dollars in bonuses if they will notify officials early that they will not return next year.
Many districts are considering layoffs as they brace for significant state funding cuts, and administrators say that the sooner they know which teachers and staffers plan to retire or leave, the more layoffs they can avoid.
"It's all about trying to save as many jobs as we can," said Kyle Boles, Cleburne schools' executive director of human resources. "We're planning for a worst-case scenario in funding cuts here, so we hope [the bonuses] will equate to saving some other jobs."
This week, Cleburne trustees approved giving teachers and some qualifying professional staffers 10 percent of their base salaries -- up to $10,000 -- if they notify the district by April 7 that they will not return next year. The first 110 to do so will receive the lump-sum bonus.
Trustees in Dallas are considering offering a bonus of 15 percent -- up to $10,000 -- to the first 1,000 employees who notify early.
Fort Worth has upped its offer for early notification from $500 to $1,000 for the first 300 teachers to do so by March 11, a deadline extended from Feb. 28.
The district had received only about 50 notifications through last week. More inquiries started coming in once the amount was bumped up, officials said. The district is also offering a $500 early-notification bonus for other professionals and hourly support staff.
"We wanted to be competitive and extend the time frame so that we might make it more appealing for them to let us know their plans early," said Sylvia Reyna, the Fort Worth school district's chief of administration.
Fort Worth officials have not said how many employees could be affected but say they hope to retain as many as possible through reassignments. Superintendent Melody Johnson has said that even if most of the cuts happen at central administration, the district may need to eliminate 900 to 1,000 teaching jobs over the next two years.
Birdville trustees are expected to vote today on offering $1,000 to qualifying employees if they give notice of retirement by March 15. Administrators have said they do not plan layoffs.
Keller trustees have approved giving contracted employees $750 and noncontracted employees $500 for notification by March 11.
Arlington, Carroll and Mansfield are not considering such bonuses.
Larry Shaw, executive director of the United Educators Association, which represents area school employees, said such incentives are good for teachers already planning to retire or move.
"They're trying to encourage folks to let them know their plans so they don't have to put other people through a lot of misery," Shaw said. "But there are no jobs out there right now. Everybody is talking about cutting teachers."
Staff writers Jessamy Brown and Shirley Jinkins contributed to this report.