Politics & Government

Bill letting retired teachers return to work in high-needs schools now NC law

Updated July 12

North Carolina lawmakers are hoping retired teachers will return to the classroom to work in some of the state’s most economically and academically challenging schools.

The state Senate unanimously passed legislation on June 27 that lets retired teachers work at Title I schools or schools that get a D or F grade under the state’s school performance system without it hurting their retirement benefits. Teachers could earn $35,000 to $40,000 a year from the state and still collect their current pensions.

Senate Bill 399 was also overwhelmingly approved by the House. Gov. Roy Cooper announced on July 11 that he had signed the bill into law.

““We desperately need more good teachers and getting retired veteran teachers to go back into the classroom is helpful,” Cooper said in a press release. “But the best way to have a good teacher in every classroom is better teacher pay and more investment in education instead of corporate tax cuts.”

The one hiccup could be if the Internal Revenue Service determines the bill jeopardizes the state’s retirement system. The legislation ask the State Treasurer to contact the IRS about the program.

Sen. Rick Horner, a Nash County Republican and one of the bill’s primary sponsors, said superintendents are eager to bring back their retired teachers, the News & Observer previously reported.

There are more than 1,400 Title I schools in North Carolina. These schools receive federal Title I funding due to their high percentage of economically disadvantaged students. A number of those schools also received D or F letter grades from the state.

Under the bill, returning teachers would get an annual state salary of $35,000. The salary would rise to $40,000 if they’re teaching science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) classes or special education classes.

Returning teachers wouldn’t be eligible for any extra pay they used to get if they had advanced degrees. But they’d be entitled to collect the local salary supplement that might be provided by their school district.

Teachers would have to be retired for at least six months before they could join the new program.

Before the June 25th House vote, Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, a Wilkes County Republican, noted that the bill expires June 30, 2021.

“If we realize that this is not working, it would automatically stop,” Elmore said. “But in the future if we see that this is effective we might can extend the sunset.”

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T. Keung Hui has covered K-12 education for the News & Observer since 1999, helping parents, students, school employees and the community understand the vital role education plays in North Carolina. His primary focus is Wake County, but he also covers statewide education issues.