SEATTLE - Seattle Public Schools wants to make it easier for retired teachers to return to the classroom. The district says that's one way of addressing a critical teacher shortage.
In Seattle Public Schools, there are dozens of teaching positions the district cannot fill, mostly special education, English language, math, science, and music.
“We're expecting to need to hire roughly 10,000 teachers across the state over the next three to four years and yet our universities are only preparing about 1,500 a year, so we definitely have a teacher shortage,” said Clover Codd, assistant superintendent for human resources.
As a remedy, the school board is considering easing restrictions on rehiring retired teachers. Currently, retirees can only work for a year once they're brought back into classrooms full-time, and they have to reapply for each school year. The proposed changes would allow them to keep working year after year.
“It is another supply, so it's really just one strategy; there are other strategies we're trying to employ,” Codd said.
Seattle Public Schools is also working to develop para-professionals and other classroom staff into full-time teachers. And they're trying to find ways to hold onto their current teaching staff, especially first-year teachers, who in some cases are making about $45,000 a year.
“I think we're also leaning on our legislatures to come up with strategies that would look at teacher compensation. We know that there's a higher cost of living in some of our areas across the state, especially in Seattle,” Codd said.
The idea of rehiring retired teachers caused some problems more than a decade ago, when some teachers were retiring, collecting full retirement benefits, and then resuming working full-time and also earning a salary.
The legislature has since changed state laws and now retirees who return to teaching jobs full-time won't get all of their benefits. Only part-time teachers who work less than half of the school year, post-retirement, can continue to earn their pension benefits.
There are also other protections in place to make sure new applicants also get a chance at those jobs.
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