Our Kansas Legislature has a critical opportunity to help many Kansas students have a competent teacher in their classroom next fall.

Current Senate Bill SB138 untangles the incredibly complex KPERS rules that currently prevent retiring teachers and administrators from being hired back in Kansas. And it does that without drawing down the KPERS budget.

Kansas is facing a rapidly growing teacher shortage. Vacancies are now occurring not just in special education, math and sciences, but in social studies, physical education and elementary teaching as well. Although it has always been difficult to recruit teachers to come to rural areas, vacancies are now occurring in Manhattan, Emporia, Wichita and other communities that could previously rely on a supply of new graduates from their local universities.

One stopgap to fill these vacancies is the pool of school teachers and administrators who have recently retired. However, complex rules implemented to prevent so-called “double-dipping” into the KPERS retirement fund have made it difficult for schools to hire back these veterans without their risking loss of their retirement.

SB138 simplifies this process for Kansas schools, and provides a simple mechanism for school boards to hire retired teachers and administrators. They would apply to the KPERS office in Topeka who in turn would calculate the amount of ongoing KPERS surcharge that would be required to balance the KPERS budget. The local school board could then make the decision whether to hire the retirant at this cost. This bill is a WIN-WIN for all involved.

This bill is not a partisan political issue.

This bill is also not an added cost to taxpayers of the state nor does it erode KPERS. It is, in the parlance of budgeting, “revenue neutral.”

But what is important to the citizens of Kansas is that, at a time of growing teacher shortage, SB138 will allow schools to bring back 200-300 qualified teachers and veteran administrators. At 20+ students per elementary teacher and about a hundred per secondary teacher, that is over ten thousand Kansas students and young citizens of Kansas who will not be killing time under a full-time substitute next fall.

—If our representatives in Topeka pass SB138.