‘Double dipping’ teachers’ jobs in jeopardy as state looks to close budget shortfall
By Maggie Blackwell
Retired teachers who have returned to work ó including nearly three dozen in Rowan County ó may lose their jobs if a state bill doesn’t pass later this month.
A statute originally enacted in 2001 allowed retired educators to return to the public schools and earn a salary without losing retirement benefits. It required retirees to wait six months before applying to teach again.
The law was scheduled to expire in 2002, but each spring, legislators have voted to extend the sunset of the statute. To date, the sunset extension has been pretty automatic.
Because of state financial shortfalls, however, legislators are now concerned about the expense of rehiring retired educators. Due to retirees’ years of service, their salaries are typically much higher than younger, newer teachers.
But advocates of so-called “double dipping” argue more experienced teachers often have better classroom management skills and can teach effectively. New teachers sometimes have to develop these skills.
The bill to rehire retired educators is in committee in both the N.C. House and Senate. If the bill does not move to the docket by May 14, it will not go to a vote. This would allow the bill to die in committee. Once it makes it to docket, it has to pass a vote of both houses.
If legislators pass the bill, each school district in the state can make its own choice on hiring retired teachers. To date, the Rowan-Salisbury School System has used retirees in positions for which it cannot find qualified teachers.
While there may be plenty of teachers in some areas, there are usually shortages in languages, special education and higher level math and science, says Rowan-Salisbury spokeswoman Rita Foil.
Rowan-Salisbury representatives attended regional job fairs, Foil says, and they took applications, despite uncertainty as to how many teachers the system will need this year. The state has indicated the education budget will be very tight this year, and may also increase maximum classroom numbers, decreasing the number of teachers needed overall. Foil noted more college students than usual will graduate with an education degree this year.
Nearly one in three new teachers leaves the profession after three years on the job. About 40 percent leave after five years.
Thirty-four states in the nation employ retired educators. In North Carolina, 2,000 retired teachers are employed by public schools. The Rowan-Salisbury School System employs 35 retired teachers full time.