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This is a shabby way to treat retirees, Stafford

Date published: 5/3/2013

The Stafford County School Board continues to promote the lie that the Voluntary Early Retirement Incentive Plan violates federal and state law, in an effort to eliminate the benefits being paid out to retirees.

Earlier letters to the editor have revealed that this plan was a recruitment and retention plan that functioned legally for decades. It is not illegal.

Federal and state agencies currently provide the same early retirement incentives as the VERIP original plan.

In a letter from the School Board dated April 24, the board paints a rosy picture for a hasty repeal of the VERIP to be replaced with the Voluntary Retiree Extended Work Plan. The School Board is racing to eliminate the VERIP so funds allocated to the retirees can be used for other purposes in the next school year and beyond.

The board claims to have another legal opinion, which has not been made public.

The School Board wants to eliminate the plan after having received the benefit of decades of hard work by retirees who were incentivized to stay with the county for more than 25 years.

The new plan is short on operational details: The rules have been structured to discourage participation and allow the School Board to boot out retirees gradually and completely.

This shabby display of transparency sends a loud and clear message to anyone working for Stafford County schools: Long years of service are not valued, and the School Board can take away benefits at any time to satisfy funding needs. Retirees are most vulnerable to this abuse and have the least power to do anything about it.

Future teachers and administrators should pay close attention to this change, because it will worsen when finances get tighter.

Stafford County schools are already in decline; this policy change will make matters worse, as qualified teachers and administrators leave for better-managed counties.

The School Board should honor the commitment to current retirees and implement policy changes for future retirees, allowing for adequate discussion, planning, and implementation.

Darrell A. Cooper