Report: 15 percent of retired Ga. teachers return to work

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ATLANTA -- Senate budget writers are wondering whether it makes sense to pay retired teachers to return to work while still collecting their pension.

Roughly 15 percent of retired teachers were back on the job at public schools in fiscal year 2009, according to a report released Friday by the Department of Audits & Accounts. The Senate Appropriations Committee requested the report about the Teachers Retirement System, the largest pension plan administered by the state, which includes local teachers and college professors.

Because full retirement is available after 30 years on the job, it’s possible to retire earlier than age 65. The auditors calculated that someone retiring at age 57 who went back to work till age 65 would earn more than simply staying on the job until the same age.

That’s after taking a required one-month break in pay following retirement and then working no more than part time for the next 12 months before returning to full-time status. The auditors found that most other states have similar plans for teachers.

“These situations highlight why Georgia needs to reform its pension program for teachers,” said Kelly McCutchen, president of the Atlanta think tank Georgia Public Policy Foundation. “The system allows its members to draw significant retirement benefits in their 50s, when most private pension plans consider 65 to be the normal retirement age.”

The report shows that the average annual pension for the 12,000 working “retirees” was $38,000 while they were earning another $23,000 on the job.

However, the arrangement doesn’t cost state taxpayers any more since someone would have been paid doing the same job if not the retiree, the auditors concluded.

“The audit team identified no significant costs to the retirement system since the re-employed retiree has already earned his or her retirement benefit,” the auditors wrote.

A retiree working full time no longer pays into the system, nor does the state. Instead, the local school system does, and those in Columbia and Gwinnett counties cut the retiree’s pay to reflect it.

If they retire and work for outside of professions covered by the Teachers Retirement System, there are no restrictions on earnings.

The shortage of teachers, especially in urban and rural districts, prompted the General Assembly to create a door for retirees to re-enter the classroom. The fear then was that a flood of retirements would worsen the shortage.

In 2002 when retired teachers were first allowed to go back to work, the option was restricted to 600 low-performing schools and limited to five years of re-employment. Two years later, it was opened to all schools with no time limit and expanded to include principals, counselors and librarians.

Senate leaders on recess this week didn’t respond to inquiries about their plans for this information. With just three work days left in the current legislative session, any proposed revisions would be likely to wait until next year.

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Sweet son
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Sweet son 04/05/11 - 05:33 pm
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This story has "sour grapes"

This story has "sour grapes" written all over it. Whine, moan, groan and do whatever you want but YOU chose your job with whatever pension plan it had or the lack of it. Most of the 30 year teachers and other Teachers Retirement System retirees made less money in their checks but they chose to have other benefits which most of you "spend it all" folks were not smart enough to take advantage of. Oh, I am not a teacher!

handmedown
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handmedown 04/05/11 - 06:22 pm
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Good ole BIG BROTHER at work

Good ole BIG BROTHER at work as usual

corgimom
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corgimom 04/05/11 - 08:10 pm
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What is the point of this

What is the point of this story?

If someone earns retirement benefits and then wants to work after they retire, isn't that their choice? Why is this even an issue?

KSL
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KSL 04/05/11 - 09:22 pm
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Just makes me wonder why

Just makes me wonder why retirement is available after just 30 years.

By the way, corgi, do you know about the terry program in SC?

I understand fully that our government agencies are better off retaining people with experience who have proven they know what they are doing. The problem seems to be the short 30 year duration they have to gain retirement status if they started our early with the government entity. If the federal government is looking at increasing the age that people can retire and collect benefits from SS, then I think state and local governments need to follow suit and stop this 30 business and then let them re-up for another 5 years or whatever. That all started when public employees on all levels were compensated at a lower rate than those in the private sector. That is no longer true. But adjustments have not been made. The pendulum has swung in the opposite direction and stuck.

CharlesB
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CharlesB 04/06/11 - 03:16 am
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I think this is laughable in

I think this is laughable in our world. Athletes are paid millions to hit a ball and we let that go, but our lawmakers are rethinking payments made to teachers? Let me see...I know taxes are used to pay teachers, but aren't lawmakers the ones going after the baseball players for steroids (what a waste of time AND money) and now getting involved in the NFL lockout? If they can put limits on what teachers can make AFTER instituting the policy to begin with, I hope the teachers get together and teach the lawmakers a lesson in math the hard way! As far as making any sense, if the men who built this country could see what we have become, they might return to England. Lol......

CharlesB
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CharlesB 04/06/11 - 03:17 am
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Oh...Howdy KSL, and tell that

Oh...Howdy KSL, and tell that lemonade maker hello.

KSL
131324
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KSL 04/06/11 - 06:14 am
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And a warm howdy to you. But

And a warm howdy to you. But may your lemonade be cold.

peonynut
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peonynut 04/06/11 - 09:28 am
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SC has the same loophole.

SC has the same loophole. Many government workers retire then come back to work drawing a full paycheck and retirement income.

writer
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writer 04/06/11 - 11:05 am
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It is amusing (or sad) to me

It is amusing (or sad) to me that teachers are being called out for this while the military is not. Oh, right, retired military were serving their country while teachers were not - such irony. MCG has sooo many professionals who retired as full colonels in their early 50's and are getting nice military retirement checks and 6 figures from the state of Georgia. Double government paychecks - Interesting, isn't it?

PCnomo
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PCnomo 04/06/11 - 11:17 am
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Writer:- When you have

Writer:- When you have retired as a teacher, please feel free to join the military and get yourself another government paycheck.

Local Interests
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Local Interests 04/06/11 - 11:26 am
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I think the point of the

I think the point of the article, other than trying to force teachers to wait until 65 to collect their pension, is that they can retire and come back to the same job on a part-time basis.

This is done all the time in Columbia County. They're called the "49%'ers". I think in most cases it is a benefit for both the teacher and the school system, particularly if the teacher is qualified to teach in a specialty field such as AP classes. I suspect often those teachers spend more than 49% of their time committed to their "part-time" job.

Of course, it also gets abused. This has been the case particularly in the area of administration where personnel have been allowed to "retire" and stay on as a 49%'er and it is not clear that they were really adding anything productive other than maybe helping someone under-qualified for their job try to come up to speed.

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