Nearly 12,000 teachers draw pensions and paychecks

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More than 11,000 Georgia educators are benefiting from a state law that allows them to go back to work for a local school system after they have retired and are drawing pension benefits from the Teachers Retirement System (TRS).

That was the finding in a report released last week by the state Department of Audits and Accounts, which conducted the audit at the request of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

State auditors combed through TRS records for fiscal year 2009 and determined that 11,626 of the 75,555 TRS retirees drawing pension benefits – about 15 percent of the total – had worked for a state or local government entity during that year.

These re-employed retirees drew an average retirement benefit of $38,000 and an average government salary of $23,000.

The report noted:

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 re-employed retiree is paid in exchange for services performed. If a re-employed retiree did not provide the service, presumably another employee would be hired to perform the work.

The General Assembly passed legislation in 2004 allowing retired teachers to return to work, during a time when there were concerns that the pending wave of retirements would create an acute shortage of classroom teachers. That shortage has become less of a concern in recent years as local systems have laid off teachers because of budget shortfalls.

The law originally limited this re-employment to teachers who agreed to work at one of 600 low-performing schools. The legislation was subsequently amended to allow educators at all levels, from teacher to superintendent, to work at any of Georgia’s public schools.

During fiscal year 2009, the audit report said, 21 retired school superintendents were re-employed by local school systems under this state law. They were paid an average salary of $109,008 in addition to their retirement benefits.

There were 6,846 retired educators who were re-employed in 2009 as either fulltime or substitute teachers. They were paid an average salary of $32,684.

Georgia’s re-employment of retired teachers is not unique, according to the audit report.

“National statistics published by the Congressional Research Service indicated that 35% of retirees ages 55-64 who received public or private sector retirement pensions were employed,” the report said.

About 5 percent of Utah’s state retirees in calendar year 2008 were re-employed by the state while 3 percent of Florida’s state retirees were re-employed in 2009, the report said.

© 2011 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: pensions and salary , retired educators , TRS