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Lawmakers in New York State Approve Early-Retirement Incentives for Teachers

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New York State teachers would be allowed to retire early--thus possibly saving the jobs of younger teachers who are facing layoffs--under a bill passed by the legislature.

The measure was supported by New York City school officials, who agreed to seek the retirement incentive in exchange for an agreement from the United Federation of Teachers to defer $40 million of teachers' salary increases until 1995 and 1996.

But, as of last week, the bill had not been signed by Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, who was still battling with lawmakers over the state budget.

Other districts in the state would have the option of offering teachers the retirement incentive, depending on their financial situations.

A spokesman for the New York State School Boards Association said last week that he had no idea how many districts might participate, but noted that offering the incentive might not be in the best financial interests of some districts.

Under the legislation, a teacher who is 55 years old and has at least 10 years of service, or who has put in at least 30 years of service regardless of age, would be eligible to receive up to three years of additional service credit.

In New York City, there would be no limit to the number of eligible teachers who could take advantage of the offer, according to the uft

Ron Davis, a union spokesman, said the uft had received inquiries on the proposal from more than 4,000 of the city's 65,000 teachers.

Some critics of the bill have said they fear it would drain the school system of some of its best and most seasoned teachers. But the teachers' union and other supporters of the plan argue that it will preserve nearly two jobs for every teacher who retires. They also note that younger teachers bring a special enthusiasm to their jobs.

"We acknowledge that we are likely to lose a lot more senior people," Mr. Davis said, "but you have to consider the alternative. If we didn't have these older people retire, we'd have a lot of younger teachers being laid off at a ratio of almost two to one."

Advocates of the plan also point out that by offering the retirement option to senior teachers, the district will avoid having to lay off disproportionate numbers of minority teachers, many of whom were recently hired.

The New York City school board also is considering extending the option to a limited number of principals, both to save money and to make way for women and minorities to move into principalships.

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