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Education Leaders: New Retirement Policy Could Hurt Some Schools

Posted October 24, 2005

— The rules of retirement for teachers across North Carolina will change Nov. 1, requiring them to wait six months before returning to the classroom, but some educators say the change could mean even more teaching shortages in some school systems across the state.

  • The change comes in an effort by state lawmakers to avoid violating an Internal Revenue System policy that, if violated, could render the teacher retirement program invalid.

    Under the current policy, referred by some as "double-dipping," teachers eligible for retirement can retire and go back to work the next day. School leaders say the policy, as it currently is, helps reduce teacher shortages and keep experienced teachers on the payroll.

    The immediate effect of the new policy, however, according to Cecilia Gregory, the director of Human Resources for the Harnett County School System, is an even bigger teacher shortage in many school systems.

    For example, the Harnett County School System is surrounded by bigger, higher-paying school districts, Gregory said. With 49 teachers eligible for retirement at the end of the 2005-2006 school year, Harnett schools would have the challenge of recruiting more brand new teachers.

    "That could hurt us -- 49 positions we could not fill with retirees," Gregory said. "(Brand new teachers) get lured away. They go where the money is."

    For retirees who want to return to teaching, the new policy would mean them having to start over if their old positions are filled with the six-month break.

    The "double-dipping" practice has received criticism because a new teacher's salary is cheaper, but schools systems argue that paying for experience is worth it.

    In school districts across the Triangle, retirees make up between 3 and 6 percent of the teacher workforce.


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