A bill introduced in the state House on Tuesday would temporarily allow some retired teachers more flexibility in how much they can work without losing their retirement benefits.
House Bill 1737 is a response to the substitute teacher shortage in Washington state, which has left schools and districts scrambling to fill substitute requests and combining classes when subs can’t be found. Lawmakers behind the bill say the shortage is partly caused by a state pension plan that keeps some retired teachers — a group that school districts traditionally rely on for subs — from substitute teaching.
Under the bill, teachers who retired early under a certain retirement plan would be allowed to substitute teach up to 216 hours — or about 27 days — before losing their retirement benefits, at least for a few years.
The bill, if passed, is designed to give school districts enough time to adjust to the substitute shortage. If it passes, its provisions would sunset in 2019, and the teachers would go back to losing their pensions any month they worked even a day for a public employer.
The bill applies to about 1,000 Washington teachers who have retired since 2008. Those teachers chose a retirement plan that offers higher pension benefits in exchange for agreeing that they can’t work for any public employer before they turn 65 without losing their pension check for the month. State lawmakers in charge of pension policy discussed the rule at committee meetings in November, after retired teachers and the state teachers union urged them to look into it.
The bill is now before the House Appropriations Committee, and it’s unclear how much the bill might cost the state.