MacLachlan, Becker Work to Relieve Rural Teacher Shortage

By Dean Toda

Colorado’s rural school districts are facing critical teacher shortages, with some positions going unfilled for five years or more. Meanwhile, plenty of retired teachers are living in rural districts, but are barred from returning to work by the rules governing their PERA retirement plans.

To apply the available resource to meet the need, HB17-1176, sponsored by Reps. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango, and Jon Becker, R-Fort Morgan, would modify the current PERA employment-after-retirement provisions for teachers, bus drivers and cafeteria workers hired by rural school districts. Teachers and other school workers would be allowed to return to work for the full 180-day school year, waiving PERA’s current 110- or 140-day limitation on retirees who return to work.

HB17-1176 is intended to help school districts that have “gone through every other avenue to find a teacher and haven’t been able to,” Rep. McLachlan told the House Finance Committee this morning.

To limit any incentive for double-dipping, this bill would prevent teachers who are retiring early from using this provision to teach in the same district within a two-year period, retirees would not be eligible to return to work until two years after their PERA pensions kicked in, and no retiree would be allowed to continue working for more than six years. The bill would create this exception only in rural districts, and the districts would have to declare that critical positions are going unfilled.

“The rural schools need this help,” Rep. McLachlan told the Finance Committee, which sent the bill to the Appropriations Committee on an 11-1 vote.

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