Educator Return-to-Work Back on the Table
A legislative package aimed at addressing teacher workforce challenges was announced by Gov. Brian Kemp at a Gold Dome news conference Tuesday, Feb. 2. His plan includes returning retired teachers to the classroom, as well as mandating coursework to help new teachers as they enter the classroom. Kemp is also encouraging more minorities and military veterans to enter Georgia's teaching profession.
Kemp’s plan would create a pathway for retired teachers to return to the classroom full-time in high-needs area without losing retirement benefits. Two bills that laid out a similar strategy garnered lawmakers’ support during the 2020 session but never passed. Kemp's return-to-work legislation is expected to require participating educators to wait 12 months before returning the classroom full-time. The legislation would not become effective for several years. Eligible high-needs positions would be determined based on analysis of hard-to-fill posititions by Regional Education Service Agencies (RESAs).
Teacher preparation is also in the spotlight in Kemp’s legislation, which would mandate coursework in differentiated instruction to help ensure teachers meet the needs of individual students including English language learners, at-risk and gifted students, and those with special needs. The governor also proposes required teacher preparation coursework in reading instruction, including phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension.
To boost the number of minority teachers, Kemp wants to foster innovative strategies to attract more students into teacher preparation programs at historically black colleges and universities. He also is encouraging more military veterans to enter teaching by providing focused support for veterans who enroll in alternative preparation programs.
The bills containing Kemp’s plan are not yet available electronically. PAGE will track developments on these proposals and post links to the bills when they are available.
Reminder: Individual educator retirement decisions should not be based on pending legislation. House Retirement Committee Hears TRS Update
Dr. Buster Evans, executive director of the Teachers Retirement System (TRS), provided an overview of the retirement system to the House Retirement Committee. The committee includes several new members including Chairman John Carson (R-Marietta). Highlights from Evans’ presentation include:
TRS has 237,000 members actively employed and contributing to the system. There are 137,000 retirees receiving payment from TRS. The average payment is $3,300 a month.
The system ended Fiscal Year 2020 with $62 billion in assets, down from a high of $85 billion. Despite this major decline in assets, the system saw a return on its investments of 5.42 percent. The average rate of return of other pension systems in the United States was 3.1 percent.
TRS pays $5.2 billion in benefits per year, amounting to an average of $425 million per month.
The system’s funded ratio is 76.7 percent – among the top third of all pensions in the nation. The total unfunded liability is $23.7 billion.
The 2020 employee contribution rate was 6 percent, and the employer contribution rate was 19.81 percent.
Despite a significant asset dip in FY 2020, the system finished the calendar year (Jan. 1 – Dec. 30) with a 15 percent return on investments.
The retirement rate has dropped. Until June 30, the retirement rate fell by 10 percent. Each month since August, however, retirements have increased. Other states have reported higher rates of retiring educators.
There have been fewer account refunds, meaning fewer educators are leaving the profession and pulling their money out of TRS. Evans is hopeful that this will lead to a larger number of educators reaching the vesting period and higher retention rates.
The death rate of retirees has increased each month since April, compared to last year.
TRS has updated its economic impact document for FY 2020. CLICK HERE to review the brochure.