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Local educators voice opinions on ending early retirement

Idaho teachers looking to retire early through the Early Retirement Incentive Package may soon not be able to.

The Idaho Senate passed a bill Tuesday that would eliminate the ERIP for teachers nearing the end of their careers.

Teachers who qualified for the package were given $17,000 as an incentive to step down early.

“I’ll be 62 next year and so I’m pretty close to retirement, actually,” said Connie Rowberry.

Rowberry has been teaching 7th grade for nearly three decades.

“I think you can actually make a difference in their lives and it’s very, very rewarding,” said Rowberry.

While Rowberry isn’t retiring early, she said over the years, the growing class sizes and increased student-to-teacher ratios have made the job a little harder, so she can see why her peers would.

“It’s not the kids, it’s the politics,” said Rowberry. “It’s like you have to do more and more for less and less and it’s exhausting.”

The early retirement program helped qualifying teachers to retire before reaching what’s called the “Rule of 90.”

“It’s your number of years experience, plus your age, equals 90,” said Keith Leppert, Bonneville Educators Association President. “That’s what they use to help determine when you can retire.”

Educators said the program also saved the state nearly $100 million by cycling teachers a little earlier in their careers.

“Maybe you could replace a $60,000 per year teacher with one for $30,000 a year,” said Leppert. “It was a way that the state could save money and the districts to save money.”

Teachers said they worry for those who took time off during their career, or maybe started teaching later in life.

They said they don’t know how those teachers will be able to reach that “Rule of 90.”

This proposal to end the early incentives program for teachers will now move to the Idaho House for debate.

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