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'We're wanting to work' | Retired Texas teachers having issues getting hired amid shortage

Many say recent legislation leaving districts on the hook for certain pension and healthcare surcharges means retirees may be unaffordable.

TEXAS, USA — Some retired educators willing to help with the teacher shortage said they’re having a hard time getting hired.

"My heart is in teaching, I love teaching,” said 65-year-old Lucy Moreno of Houston.

She said she's itching to get back in the classroom where her passion lies.

“I wrongfully assumed that, because they have such a great need for teachers, it wouldn’t be difficult," said Moreno.

But many older and/or retired teachers report issues getting hired despite the teacher shortage.

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"There’s been a lot of chatter about retire rehires,” said Amy Campbell, Director of human resource services for the Texas Association of School Boards.

She's among those citing legislation signed into law last year requiring districts to cover pension and certain healthcare surcharges rather than the retirees themselves.

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That resulted in them costing significantly more than younger teachers or others.

“I do think it was designed to benefit retirees," said Campbell.  "Meaning they would get to keep more of that money they make for returning to the classroom. "However, I think it has backfired a little bit in that it has become unaffordable for many districts to hire them.”

The Texas Education Agency’s Teacher Vacancy Task Force said it is aware of the potential roadblock, which teachers’ unions and others would like removed given the current crisis.

"We’re wanting to work," said Moreno. "Just because we’re older doesn’t mean we can’t work.”

Ms. Moreno recently got a job offer she hopes comes through.

Below, the Teacher Retirement System of Texas responded to questions about the legislation signed last year requiring districts to cover pension and certain healthcare surcharges rather than the retirees themselves. 

-Could you explain the recent surcharge change?

During the 87th Legislature regular session SB 202 was passed to prohibit employers from directly or indirectly passing surcharges onto retirees. Other legislation impacting employment after retirement including tutor exceptions can be found online on our website. Additional employment after retirement exceptions and information may also be found on our website.

The Texas Legislature created surcharges in 2005, SB 1691 (79R). Surcharges are additional contributions that TRS-covered employers must pay to TRS for employing TRS retirees who retired after Sept. 1, 2005 and who work more than one-half time during a month. There are two types of surcharges: pension surcharges and health care surcharges. The amount of the pension surcharge is equal to the amount of both member and state contributions on the compensation paid to the retiree that would be contributed to TRS if the retiree was an active member. The health care surcharge only applies for employed retirees who are TRS-Care participants.

During the 87th regular session, the legislature passed bills relating to employment after retirement, often referred to as retire-rehire. Specific to surcharges, the legislature created a new exception in SB 288 to allow a service retiree to work in Texas public education and not be subject to employment after retirement limits and surcharges if the retiree is employed in a position performing duties related to the mitigation of student learning loss attributable to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. The position must meet the following requirements:

1. it is in addition to the normal staffing level at the Reporting Employer (RE),

2. it is funded wholly by federal funds provided under federal law enacted for the purpose of providing relief related to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, including:

a. Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (15 U.S.C. Section 9001

et seq.),

b. Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 (Div. M,

Pub. L. No. 116-260), or

c. American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (Pub. L. No. 117-2), and

3. it ends on or before Dec. 31, 2024.

In addition to surcharges, state law requires a consecutive-twelve-month break in service in order to return to work more than one-half time during the month. However, the 87th legislature provided an opportunity in HB 1585 for members who were already retired under Service Retirement as of January 1, 2021 to return to work in any capacity after a one-month break in service upon their effective date of retirement.

-Is TRS aware of any issues or complaints from retirees trying to go back to work?

TRS understands anecdotally some retirees are pleased with recent legislation, while others are finding districts will not hire retirees due to surcharges.

-What’s your advice to retired teachers interested in teaching again?

TRS strongly encourages retirees to contact TRS should they have any questions regarding exceptions and understanding restrictions that may be applicable to them. 1-800-223-8778. TRS created an interactive video to help our retirees find the information they need to comply with the rules on working after retirement. With this tool, a retiree can conveniently navigate to the information he or she needs based on their situation. Retirees will also find helpful practice scenarios to test knowledge and understanding.

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