Legislature(2003 - 2004)
04/29/2003 01:42 PM Senate STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= 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 discussions. 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.