By YUEHAN LIU
Capital News Service
LANSING—Public school retirees would retain their full pensions and health benefits while going back to work at schools with a critical shortage of teachers in their discipline or as substitutes for teachers and other instructional positions, under a bill before the Legislature.
The House and Senate have passed similar versions of a proposal to change the current law that reduces pension and health benefits for some retirees who are back teaching, depending on their retirement data and the circumstances of their new position.
The measure awaiting final legislative action lays out requirements to determine if a district has a “critical shortage” and if a retiree qualifies.
Michigan Education Association (MEA) President Steven Cook said the bill relates to the teacher shortage at public schools.
The MEA is Michigan’s largest union of teachers and other school personnel.
“Nobody wants to go into education anymore. Fewer people want to get into the profession and a lot of people want to get out of the profession,” Cook said.
Cook said there is a shortage of full-time teachers but even more of substitutes.
So for retirees who had a teaching certificate and want to come back to their profession, the proposal would be valuable to public schools, he said.
Rep. Holly Hughes, R-Montague is the lead sponsor. Co-sponsors include Republican Reps. Thomas Hooker of Byron Center, Rick Outman of Six Lakes, Jon Bumstead of Newaygo, Nancy Jenkins of Clayton, Amanda Price of Park Township and Ed McBroom of Vulcan.
Mark Guastella, executive director of the Michigan Association of Retired School Personnel, said the organization supports the bill, but also expects it to expand.
“This bill opens the door, but barely, and we support it because it opens the door. We are disappointed that it doesn’t do more. We hope that we can work with the Legislature to expand it,” he said.
Guastella said one limitation in the bill is that although retirees have more experience than people who have never taught, it would be costly for public schools to hire retirees back.
The version passed by the Senate now returns to the House to reconcile differences.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES FOR CNS EDITORS
House Bill 4059: http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2015-2016/billengrossed/House/pdf/2015-HEBS-4059.pdf.