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Wrong on teacher absenteeism

Christina Myer had a column in the Oct. 13. newspaper. She lists a bunch of statistics on teacher absenteeism and then throws the teachers under the school bus for missing days that by contract they are allowed to use saying, “If teachers abusing the system do not see the value in avoiding that (absenteeism), perhaps it is time to seek another line of work.”

Formerly, teachers could bank their unused sick days (12 sick days and 3 personal days) per school year, and then use them for additional service when they retired. Under the old system, 90 accumulated sick days counted as one year of additional service. If someone retired with 35 years of teaching service and had 500 days of sick leave accumulated that would give them an additional 5.6 years of service, or a total of 40.6 years.

Let’s say they were making $52,000 per year. Their retirement pay would be $42,224 per year. If you subtract the extra years of service they received for the 500 sick days their retirement pay would be $36,400, or $5,824 less. At the current substitute rate, which is based on degree level and years of experience, those 500 days would cost the school district $69,048. It would take 11.9 years for the additional retirement pay to equal what it would cost to pay for subs.

Keep in mind in West Virginia, there are no cost of living adjustments for retirees. What you get the year you retire is what you get until you die, while sub pay continues to go up.

The one year of additional service for 90 days of accumulated sick leave could be raised to save more money, while still providing the teachers the incentive to save up sick days. If it was raised to 125 days, a teacher with 500 accumulated sick days would receive four additional years of service. If the retiring teacher worked 35 years and was making $52,000, they would have made $36,400 for retirement pay. But, with the added four years, they would be receiving $40,560. Even increasing the number of days needed to get extra service would be a big incentive for teachers to not miss school and would reduce absenteeism.

There were other topics covered in Myer’s column that were presented unfairly, but because there is a word limit on letters to the editor I could not address them here.

John Armstrong

St. Marys

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