Georgia governor wants to get retired teachers to return

·3 min read

ATLANTA — Some retired Georgia teachers could return to work and collect both a full salary and a full pension under a proposal that Gov. Brian Kemp unveiled Tuesday to bolster the state’s teacher workforce.

The Republican governor said he wants to let educators return to work if they can teach in one of the top three subject areas in which a local region’s schools most need more teachers.

Kemp also called for the recruitment of more teachers from the military and from historically Black colleges.

“I knew we needed to strengthen our teacher pipeline,” he said.

Georgia isn’t experiencing as severe a teacher shortage as some other states, boosted by a growing population and salaries that are high for the region. But Southern Regional Education Board President Stephen Pruitt said it’s still a problem in the state, particularly with declining enrollments in colleges of education.

Kemp has made teachers a cornerstone of his governorship. He’s delivered teachers $3,000 of a $5,000 yearly pay raise that he has promised, and is working with the state Board of Education to pay all education employees a $1,000 bonus this year out of federal coronavirus relief money. He also wants to use better-than-expected state revenues to restore more than half of what was cut last year from Georgia’s K-12 funding formula.

Currently, teachers can return to work and collect up to 49% of the salary they are entitled to while still collecting retirement. Under Kemp’s measure, a teacher would be able to teach at that 49% level for one year, then return to full salary.

It's unclear how many teachers would be eligible. Teachers Retirement System Executive Director Buster Evans said a similar program only included about 500 teachers statewide about a decade ago before the state abolished it.

The measure is unlikely to become law before 2022, at the earliest, due to legislative requirements that it undergo a financial study to determine whether it would harm the financial health of the Teachers Retirement System. Evans said it was unlikely to hurt the fund.

Kemp also proposed new directives on what aspiring teachers learn in college, including requirements they learn to teach reading in a way that builds up literacy by sounding out letters and words and decoding words based on spelling. Many experts say that's a more effective approach than other methods of reading instruction, but some educators have resisted.

Kemp also wants to mandate that colleges of education instruct aspiring teachers on differentiated instruction, the idea that different teaching approaches may be needed for different students such as English language learners, gifted students, or students with learning disabilities.

“As a father of a future teacher, I have even a greater appreciation of how critical training of our teachers is for their ability to thrive in the classroom,” Kemp said, referring to one of his daughters.

To recruit more educators, Kemp said Tuesday that he wants to do more to encourage people to become teachers when leaving military service. Georgia already promises expedited certification processing, counselling , job search aid and modified certification requirements. Kemp also wants the state do more to recruit teachers from historically Black colleges and universities.

The governor would also clarify that teachers who rate highly under the state's teacher evaluation system should be exempt from additional in-classroom education, with administrators using that additional time to mentor teachers rated as “needs development” or “ineffective.”

Finally, Kemp proposed that Georgia's teacher of the year sit on the state Board of Education as a nonvoting member, saying it's important that board members hear educators' perspectives when deciding policies.

“I want to make sure their voices are heard when decisions are being made," Kemp said.

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Follow Jeff Amy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jeffamy.

Jeff Amy, The Associated Press