ST. LOUIS — A new Missouri law has made 183 St. Louis teachers eligible for retirement, though the top administrator and union members in the district that has grappled with filling vacancies don’t expect an exodus of teachers.
The school district is sending teachers a letter signed by Superintendent Kelvin Adams and the American Federation of Teachers’ local president, Sally Topping, urging retirement-eligible teachers to stay, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Friday.
Adams and the union say many of the teachers would have to pay hundreds of dollars a month out-of-pocket for health care if they retire early from the district that already has about 45 teaching vacancies. Last year, the district began the school year with 140 vacancies.
A small provision of a new pension law that takes effect Aug. 28 allows teachers to retire when their years of service plus age total 80, down from the district’s rule of 85. Teachers also can retire when they turn 65.
The district has an extra teacher at half of its elementary schools to prepare for a possible large exodus of teachers, Adams said. But it has been unable to hire extra middle or high school staff, because it’s already difficult to fill normal vacancies at those levels.
“We’ve hired everybody we can hire,” Adams said.
The district covers employees’ health insurance, meaning teachers who leave would have to shoulder their own health care costs if they don’t qualify for Medicare.
Adams considers the law needed, noting it will decrease the district’s pension costs significantly over time and put the St. Louis teacher pension system on par with the rest of the state in terms of contribution rates by employers and members.
Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com