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      Officials' Plan to Avoid Teacher Exodus

      Alabama officials are bringing forth options they hope will thwart a major teacher exodus.

      More than 1,000 teachers are expected to retire Dec.1 in an effort to avoid higher health insurance rates. Officials expect there to be as many as 2,000 education employees to turn in retirement notices, half of which could be forms from teachers. If those teachers leave, there would be a mid-year disruption in about 2 percent of the state's classrooms.

      Governor Robert Bentley says his plan could stop disruptions. He says teachers can go ahead with their retirement, take December off,{} return to teach Jan. 1 on a temporary teaching contract, then finish out the remainder of the school year. But he says, if a teacher decides to leave, the move could open doors.

      "The teachers that were going to retire were obviously going to retire anyway. This will give a new opportunity to new teachers who are there and who are trained that want to teach to come into our system," Bentley says.

      But Lance Hyche, representative for the Alabama Education Association, doubts that scenario will pan out. He says his group fought against the bill, which raised health insurance rates for public employees, including teachers. All of whom will have to pay more if they retire after December 1.

      "Our school districts from north to south are going to be in a crisis situation. We are going to have a shortage of teachers, a shortage of employees, and we have to find a way to correct that," Vance says.

      Bentley hopes teachers will use his option. November 1 is the deadline for public employees to postmark their retirement paperwork.

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