BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — It is estimated Louisiana needs to hire over 2,500 teachers to address the current shortage. New legislation takes aim at retired teachers to get them to come back to the classroom.
Lawmakers emphasized Louisiana is facing a critical teaching shortage and they hope retirees can come back to help with the issue in the short term.
State Superintendent Cade Brumley recently stated in a PAR webinar that about 50,000 kids are impacted by the teacher shortage in the state right now. A lot of the issue is there aren’t enough certified and qualified teachers to fill the positions. This leads to bigger classes and a higher turnover rate for teachers.
Sen. Stewart Cathey, a Monroe Republican, said he had been approached by educators to find a way to help retired teachers get back to work.
“We’ve got superintendents driving school bus routes because we don’t have anybody to do this,” Sen. Cathay said. “He says, ‘I’ve got some retired teachers that would come back today but they’re not going to come back for the reduced benefit that’s there.’”
Three bills deal with retired teachers having to suspend their benefits in order to teach again. Under the law, teachers must be retired for 12 months before they can return to work. Once they do come back, they have to take a cut from their benefits.
“There are retirees who would like to come back. There are. Some of them are concerned with the fact that if they were to come back they still want to keep their benefits but of course, there are limitations,” retired teacher Juanita Hall said.
The bill that made it out of committee by Sen. Cleo Fields allows teachers to keep their benefits and make money from teaching – but will only last for three years. There is an ongoing debate of how to get teachers to stay in the classroom and to recruit young people to become certified teachers.
Sen. Fields said when he attended Southern University the education department was one of the largest in the school, now it is one of the smallest.
The president of the University of Louisiana System said that nursing educators are in critical need and hopes a higher education component could be added to the bills. A representative for community colleges echoed the sentiment as they also are in critical need of qualified educators.
“The next decade and a half is going to exacerbate the nurse shortage as we all get older, as nurse faculty get older,” UL System President Jim Henderson said.
There are a number of bills such as teacher pay raises and other incentives to help deal with the shortage in the long run. Senators plan to work together to expand Fields’ bill to allow for more retirees to return to work.