Tennessee bill to address school staffing shortages passed by state Senate

Posted at 12:43 PM, Mar 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-28 15:33:20-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A Tennessee bill to address school staffing shortages across the state was passed by the Senate this week.

This bill - sponsored by Senator Ken Yager (R - Kingston) - allows retired Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System members to be reemployed as K-12 teachers, substitute teachers or bus drivers without having their TCRS benefits taken away or suspended.

Retired teachers can currently return to work, but only for 120 days maximum. Senate Bill 2702 allows workers to return for an entire school year, giving them the option to renew annually if there are no other qualified applicants.

“This important legislation I believe will go a long way to alleviating the staffing crunch facing schools statewide,” said Sen. Yager.

“Many retirees are already helping their local school districts and want to continue to help, but are being held back by current requirements. This bill temporarily removes those barriers to provide much needed support in our schools. The companion bill has passed the House and I’m appreciative of Rep. Rebecca Alexander (R-Jonesborough) for her strong support.”

During reemployment in a school system, retirement benefits would be reduced to 70 percent of retirement allowance. The existing salary cap would be removed.

"This is a very positive step. We support it," said JC Bowman of Professional Educators of Tennessee. "Almost 11,000 openings by 2024. We know that's coming. We keep trotting out one program after another trying to address it. We also know that there are 2,000 classrooms right now that are open. Probably, 2 or 300 in Nashville alone."

"We've got a problem and finally some people are starting to take notice of it. These are band-aids, these are not solutions. We'll continue to support band-aids but unfortunately, the demand exceeds the supply," said Bowman.

Metro Nashville Public Schools also released a statement about the bill, "We appreciate any efforts by the state to increase flexibility for school districts to be able to hire qualified employees to meet the needs of students. If this bill were to become law, we would look forward to analyzing how that new flexibility could support our staffing strategy."

Senate Bill 2702 would be effective from July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2025.

The bill will next head to Governor Bill Lee's desk to be signed.