New retirement plan blamed for teacher shortage in Alabama

New retirement plan blamed for teacher shortage in Alabama
Teaching is a thankless job, but now more teachers are leaving the state, or the profession altogether. Education officials say it's due to a retirement plan put in place in 2013. (Source: {WBRC})

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Teachers hired after January 1, 2013, are on what’s called a tier two retirement plan. And there are some glaring differences these new teachers are facing.

“They have to work until they’re 62 years old. Whereas, on tier one, you got to retire with full benefits after 25 years of service,” says Tracee Binion with Alabama Education Association.

And that’s not the only difference.

“They don’t get to accumulate their sick leave time towards their retirement, like for retirement credit,” says Binion.

Because of that, teachers are taking sick leave at a higher rate, which has a ripple effect on students.

“And then their students are taught by maybe a non-certified person, or maybe they have to combine classes because they couldn’t find a sub that day. We’re having a real issue with that in this area,” says Binion.

They’re also seeing higher teacher turnover.

“Folks that were hired under the tier two plan, to only stay in education about five years or less.”

Binion says there are many more issues.

According to the Director of Human Resources with the JeffCo School System, they’re seeing fewer graduates coming into the profession. Based on a survey taken by State Superintendent Eric Mackey, before 2013, 12 percent of high school students in Alabama wanted to pursue education as a career. Now that’s dropped to 4 percent. They can’t say the new plan is completely to blame, but they say it’s a big factor.

“We want to see employees taken care of, but ultimately anything that you do for an employee impacts the children in the classroom,” says Binion.

Many believe this was a money-saving strategy by the state school system. Binion says state officials know there is a problem and are working to fix it. They’re thinking of creating a Tier 3 for employees to opt into. Under the Tier 3 plan, employees would serve for 30 years (that’s up five years from Tier 1 employees), and they would have the same percentage donated toward their retirement as Tier 1 employees. It’s still a work in progress, but we hear the state intends to release information soon about the issue.

Copyright 2019 WBRC. All rights reserved.