In 2002, the Georgia General Assembly passed House Bill 210 to address what was projected to be a critical shortage of public school teachers in the state. Prior to the enactment of HB210, retired teachers could only return to work in the classroom in Georgia part-time if they wished to continue receiving retirement benefits.
After passage of HB210, beginning with the 2002 school year, teachers who retired prior to Dec. 31, 2001, could return to work full time as a teacher or improvement specialist for up to five years without interrupting retirement benefits. Any teacher who returned to work full-time was limited to those schools with low test scores and performance ratings.
In theory, the highly experienced and qualified teachers the state wished to retain would be utilized at the approximately 600 schools most in need of their services. All changes made by HB210 were set to expire July 1, 2008.
Since 2002, OCGA 47-3-127.1 has been amended twice, each time expanding the re-employment options available to retired teachers. The 2004 amendment allows those who retired prior to December 2003 to return to work at any school for an indefinite amount of time rather than just the low performing schools for five years.
Enacted in 2008, the current version of the law is set to expire June 30, 2016, and allows all retirees to return to work full-time, regardless of date of retirement, after a one-year break between retirement and returning to work. During the requisite year they may work part-time.
Rehired employees are eligible to teach at all public schools with no limit on the amount of time they may return to work.
Retirees are eligible to return to work as a classroom teacher, principal, superintendent, counselor, media specialist or RESA improvement specialist. The only limits on eligibility are that those who retired as principals or superintendents may not return to the same school or school system from which they retired.
The most important change to note under the current statute is that the employer of retired Teacher’s Retirement System (TRS) employees must now pay both the employer and employee contributions into the retirement system. Previously, the employer was only responsible for paying the employer contribution. Under all three forms of the law, the rehired retiree does not receive any additional creditable service towards his or her current pension benefits.
What is the impact?
The current economic climate begs the question of whether the practice of allowing TRS retirees to work full-time for a salary in addition to collecting retirement benefits should continue. The initial reason for instituting such a practice was to address a projected critical shortage of teachers in Georgia public schools.
Since 2007, the University System of Georgia (USG) has seen a steady increase in the number of students graduating from teaching programs across the state. While all of these graduates may not intend on teaching in Georgia, a majority of them probably are. Between 2007 and 2010, USG has averaged more than 4,300 graduates each year.
In 2010, 66 percent of the 4871 new teaching candidates graduated from a traditional bachelors’ program. The remaining 34 percent of candidates completed a graduate program or a post-baccalaureate program.
Since 2008 the percentage of people newly certified as teachers who were reported as having become employed as a teacher in a public school the following year has decreased almost 30 percent. In FY2008, 76 percent of the 12,529 newly certified teachers were employed. In FY2009, this number was reduced to 60 percent, with 6,556 of 10,861 reported as employed. In FY2010, only 3,945, or 46 percent, of the 8,488 who were certified for the first time were reported as teachers. The number of teachers newly certified in FY2011 increased slightly to 8,488. This year, the number of those who become employed will not be known until October.
Currently, there are roughly 2,300 public schools in 180 school systems across Georgia. During the 2008 school year, there were 118,913 active teachers in Georgia. In 2009, this number reached its peak at almost 121,000. Since that time, the number of active teachers has decreased by more than 6,000 positions to a total of 114,416 in 2010. Every year, more teachers are competing for fewer positions. The state audit on TRS indicates that in FY2009 there were between 7,160 and 11,626 retirees who had returned to work either part-time or full-time. These numbers are based on data from TRS and the Department of Audits and Accounts respectively.
While it can be argued that there is no real additional cost associated with employing retired teachers because someone else would still be hired to fill the position otherwise, there are some additional issues to ponder including higher salary and retirement contributions.
There is little debate about the impact a good teacher can have on a child but during these difficult economic times, it is appropriate to question how tax money is being spent. Should anyone be allowed, and even encouraged, to earn a full-time salary in addition to receiving full retirement benefits for roughly the same position?
All retirees returning to work have the option of suspending retirement benefits to again become an active and contributing member of the system. Under this plan, the employee will be credited with the additional service when he or she returns to retirement.
While there is no longer a teacher shortage in most Georgia public schools, the lowest performing schools can always benefit from experience. Given this fact, it may be worthwhile to consider returning the law to its 2002 version rather than eliminating the practice altogether.
The Fourth Senatorial District after reapportionment will consist of: Bulloch, Candler, Effingham, Evans counties and parts of Emanuel and Tattnall counties. Treutlen County will now be in the 19th Senatorial District, represented by Sen. Tommie Williams.
The new House and Senate District maps may be viewed at: www.legis.ga.gov, Please visit the joint webpage for the House and Senate Reapportionment Committees, “Proposed Maps.”
I may be reached at
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E-mail at Jack.Hill@senate.ga.gov
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