Politics & Government

NC wants retired teachers back. Bill would let them teach without hurting benefits.

Teachers can bring value to the classroom with or without licenses

Kenny Felder, a teacher at Raleigh Charter High School, used to be a computer programmer. “People are bringing into this their real-world experiences," said Felder, which may be just as valuable as obtaining teaching certifications.
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Kenny Felder, a teacher at Raleigh Charter High School, used to be a computer programmer. “People are bringing into this their real-world experiences," said Felder, which may be just as valuable as obtaining teaching certifications.

Some powerful state lawmakers have introduced legislation to encourage retired North Carolina teachers to return to teach in high-needs public schools.

Senate Bill 399 filed March 28 would let retired teachers work at Title I schools or schools that receive a D or F grade under the state’s school performance system without it hurting their retirement benefits. Teachers could earn $35,000 to $40,000 a year from the state and still collect their current pensions.

The bill was unanimously passed by the Senate on May 8. The bill now goes to the House.

Sen. Rick Horner, a Nash County Republican and one of the primary sponsors, said current state law limits the ability of retired teachers to return to work full-time in the state’s public schools.

Horner
Rick Horner

“They’re our best teachers,” Horner, co-chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said in an interview March 29. “It makes no sense not to figure a way for them to come back to work for us.

“Hopefully they’ll replace the substitutes who are working at our high-needs schools.”

Dozens of education bills are filed each year in the General Assembly, but this bill’s sponsors make it different. The other two primary sponsors are Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, a Wake County Democrat, and Senate leader Phil Berger, a Rockingham County Republican.

Like House Speaker Tim Moore, Berger rarely is a primary sponsor of bills.

“Despite raising starting teacher salaries and providing teachers with five consecutive raises, we are still seeing the need for more teachers in certain schools around the state,” Berger said in a news release. “This bill provides an effective solution to help alleviate that issue.”

There are more than 1,400 Title I schools in North Carolina. They receive federal Title I funding due to their high percentage of economically disadvantaged students. A number of those schools also received D and F letter grades from the state.

Horner, who was a local school board member for 14 years, said superintendents are eager to bring back their retired teachers. He said it makes no sense that the state’s retirement system makes it easier for retired teachers to go work in the private sector or teach in other states than to return to a North Carolina public school classroom.

Under the bill, returning teachers would get an annual state salary of $35,000. The salary would rise to $40,000 if they’re teaching science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) classes or special education classes.

Between their pensions and their new state salary, Horner said retired teachers could receive more than $70,000 a year if they return to the classroom under the bill. An amendment to the bill also allows the rehired teachers to collect local salary supplements from their school district.

Teachers would have to be retired for at least six months before they could join the new program.

Chaudhuri said other states have brought back recently retired teachers to address teaching shortages.

“This bill brings back our best and brightest veteran teachers into our high-needs schools,” Chaudhuri said in an interview. “If you ask any principal or superintendent, they’ll tell you it’s a win-win bill.”

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