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Senate adopts bill to encourage retired teachers to return as subs

teacher standing in front of class with large monitor
Steve Riot

The Michigan Senate has adopted a bill that supporters said would encourage recently retired teachers and other school personnel to return the classroom as substitutes. The goal is to help alleviate a shortage of teachers and support staff in schools.

The bill would allow retired school personnel to return to work after four months of retirement. The current requirement is to wait at least a year.

“We have a huge problem in Michigan with the lack of substitute teachers,” said Republican state Senator Dale Zorn, the bill sponsor.

Zorn said the shortage of people to work in schools has gotten worse with the wave of retirements during COVID-19 – and he acknowledged the bill would only deal with part of the problem.

“There’s no fix out there that’s going to be 100%,” Zorn told Michigan Public Radio.

Doug Pratt, with the Michigan Education Association, agreed. He told Michigan Public Radio there are a lot of factors contributing to the shortage.

“Is this going to help in some areas in terms of providing some additional educators for classrooms? Sure,” he said. “Is it going to solve the problem? No, because we’re not dealing with addressing the core issues, which is the lack of compensation and respect for the education profession.”

The bill cleared the Senate with wide bipartisan support. It now goes to the state House.

There are concerns about the proposed legislation's potential impact on the school employee retirement fund. The bill has a sunset clause that would require the Legislature to revisit the question in two years.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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