Legislature(2003 - 2004)

04/29/2003 01:42 PM Senate STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
            SB 145-REEMPLOYMENT OF RETIRED TEACHERS                                                                         
CHAIR  GARY STEVENS  asked for  a  motion to  adopt the  proposed                                                               
committee substitute (CS) as the working document.                                                                              
SENATOR COWDERY  made a motion  to adopt  CSSB 145 \H  version as                                                               
the working document.                                                                                                           
CHAIR  GARY  STEVENS reported  it  was  two  years ago  that  the                                                               
Legislature allowed school districts  to rehire retired teachers.                                                               
SB 145  would provide school  districts with an  additional tool,                                                               
which  would allow  them  to reemploy  teachers  who had  retired                                                               
through the  Retirement Incentive Program (RIP).  This would also                                                               
allow the  Department of Education  and Early  Development (DEED)                                                               
and  the  Department of  Labor  (DOL)  to  hire regular  and  RIP                                                               
retired teachers  for their  schools and  programs such  as Mount                                                               
Edgecumbe  and   the  Alaska  Vocational  Technical   Center.  In                                                               
addition, DEED could hire a RIP retiree as a commissioner.                                                                      
Those who RIPed and want to return  to work are required to pay a                                                               
penalty  of 110  percent of  the  benefit that  they received  on                                                               
retirement,  which has  been a  great disincentive  to return  to                                                               
teaching. Because the  full cost of RIP retirements  were paid at                                                               
the time  of retirement, there  is no actuarial impact  on either                                                               
PERS or TRS and therefore the bill has a zero fiscal note.                                                                      
SENATOR COWDERY  asked if teachers were  unavailable or unwilling                                                               
to teach in certain areas of the state.                                                                                         
CHAIR GARY STEVENS explained there  is a real teacher shortage in                                                               
many areas  of the  state and, although  the bill  wouldn't force                                                               
districts to  rehire retired  teachers, it  would give  them that                                                               
option. He  reminded members that  RIPs were no  longer available                                                               
to  teachers and,  as a  school board  president during  the time                                                               
they   were  offered,   he  regretted   having   agreed  to   the                                                               
unsuccessful program.                                                                                                           
DEBBIE OSSIANDER,  President of the Association  of Alaska School                                                               
Boards, spoke  on behalf of  the association, which  is comprised                                                               
of school  board members  across the  state. Because  salaries in                                                               
Alaska  are no  longer  as competitive  as they  used  to be  and                                                               
training in  state is inadequate  and bureaucratic  mandates have                                                               
caused special  education teachers  to drop  their certification,                                                               
it  has  become  increasingly  difficult  to  draw  teachers  and                                                               
administrators  to remote  areas  of the  state.  The ability  to                                                               
rehire  teachers that  have  left the  profession  would help  to                                                               
alleviate those difficulties.                                                                                                   
The  association strongly  supports  the bill  and has  followed,                                                               
with  great  interest,   the  new  Administration's  difficulties                                                               
associated with finding a new  commissioner. This bill would help                                                               
school districts fill teaching and administrative positions.                                                                    
SENATOR COWDERY asked  how many teachers have  taken advantage of                                                               
a RIP.                                                                                                                          
MS. OSSIANDER  replied she was  from Anchorage and  that district                                                               
did not participate in state RIPs.                                                                                              
FRED  ESPOSITO,  Director  of  the  Alaska  Vocational  Technical                                                               
Center  (AVTEC), reported  that  they  deliver quality  technical                                                               
training to over  1,800 Alaskans every year. To do  so, they rely                                                               
on the  ability to hire  highly competent  technical instructors,                                                               
which has become  increasingly difficult. SB 145  is important to                                                               
the center and they support it fully.                                                                                           
KEVIN  SWEENEY, legislative  liaison with  DEED, pointed  out the                                                               
bill  not only  allows RIP  participants to  return to  work, but                                                               
also  clarifies the  law  the Legislature  passed  in 2001.  This                                                               
allowed school districts  and REAAs to hire  retired teachers who                                                               
hadn't RIPed  and they could  continue to receive  their benefit.                                                               
Due to an  oversight when that bill was passed,  the DEED was not                                                               
given this  ability even  though they run  schools in  the state.                                                               
The  Teaching and  Learning Support  Division has  positions that                                                               
have  been unfilled  for more  than a  year and  this bill  would                                                               
allow them  to take advantage  of the  incentive to get  both RIP                                                               
and  non-RIP teachers  to return  to the  profession and  perhaps                                                               
fill some of those positions.                                                                                                   
CHAIR GARY STEVENS  thanked Mr. Sweeney for  clarifying that DEED                                                               
was left out of the 2001 legislation.                                                                                           
TAPE 03-23, SIDE B                                                                                                            
4:30 p.m.                                                                                                                     
TIM  STEELE,  Vice-President  of   the  Anchorage  School  Board,                                                               
testified  in support  of SB  145. The  district has  experienced                                                               
difficulty in drawing teachers back  to work and he reported that                                                               
certain specialty  positions are particularly difficult  to fill.                                                               
He  noted   that  while  the   No  Child  Left  Behind   Act  has                                                               
requirements  for  highly  qualified teachers  in  every  subject                                                               
area,  it's   the  experienced  teachers  that   were  previously                                                               
encouraged to leave as a  cost saving measure. Although Anchorage                                                               
didn't  participate in  the  state RIP,  they  support the  bill,                                                               
which would encourage the return of experienced teachers.                                                                       
GUY  BELL,  Director of  Retirement  and  Benefits, reported  the                                                               
department submitted  a zero fiscal note  because the legislation                                                               
has no actuarial  impact on the retirement funds.  In response to                                                               
previous questions, he advised there  are 862 RIP retirees in the                                                               
state and  568 outside the  state, all of whom  could potentially                                                               
return to teaching.  They have received just 84  TRS waivers from                                                               
school districts since  its inception more than two  years ago so                                                               
it's used on a very limited basis.                                                                                              
CHAIR GARY  STEVENS asked  him to  clarify that  retired teachers                                                               
could return to substitute teach as well.                                                                                       
MR. BELL agreed that was  correct. A retired teacher could return                                                               
full time, part time, or as a substitute teacher.                                                                               
CHAIR GARY  STEVENS asked  what the  latitude would  be regarding                                                               
the  agreement the  district  would come  to  with the  returning                                                               
RIPed  teacher  and  also for  confirmation  that  the  returning                                                               
teacher would not be accruing additional retirement benefits.                                                                   
MR.  BELL  replied  the  person would  return  under  the  waiver                                                               
provision, which means they continue  to receive their retirement                                                               
benefit and  would not accrue  another retirement  benefit during                                                               
the return to employment.                                                                                                       
CHAIR GARY STEVENS asked about tenure and salary.                                                                               
MR. BELL  advised that would  be between the school  district and                                                               
the employee;  the retirement  system does  not enter  into those                                                               
SENATOR COWDERY made a motion to  move SB 145 from committee with                                                               
individual recommendations  and attached zero fiscal  note. There                                                               
being no objection, it was so ordered.                                                                                          

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