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The Golden Years

Alabama's teacher-retirement system is being flooded with applications from beneficiaries who are trying to take advantage of a loophole that permits them to cash in on jobs they held as college students.

According to state officials, the system's governing board was "reluctantly'' forced to conclude three years ago that a broadly worded provision in a 1975 law entitled two graduate assistants at the University of Alabama to retirement benefits. Previously, the board had contended steadfastly that students who worked for their colleges and universities were not covered by the law.

The trickle of similar requests that followed that decision has become a torrent as word of the loophole has spread. System officials say they are receiving an average of 14 requests a day from teachers, administrators, and state education department officials who insist that they, too, are entitled to extra benefits.

Recent applicants include a former Troy State University student who used to water the greens on his school's golf course and an ex-University of Alabama student who was paid to sleep in a building undergoing renovation so he could sound the alarm in case of a fire.

Officials say the requests have added $20 million to the program's already unfunded liability of $500 million.

Former greenskeepers and human smoke alarms, take note: The governor has signed a bill setting an Oct. 1 deadline for requests for such benefits.

No Free Ride in the Motor City

Detroit school-board members recently learned that some perquisites of their jobs may not be worth the price.

State officials, angered by some board members' insistence on using publicly funded chauffeur-driven cars, first tried to bring an end to the practice by deducting the cost of the cars--$270,000 annually--from the district's state-aid payment.

The move ruffled feathers and stiffened resistance among the Detroit board members, who vowed to fight what they claimed was a move to infringe on local control of education.

But when state officials threatened to delay the sale of $30 million in short-term notes that the district badly needed to keep meeting its payroll, the board members had a sudden change of heart.

"The board president has promised that all members will be in compliance within 30 days,'' a district spokesman said last week.

Meanwhile, a bill that would prevent districts from providing their school-board members with chauffeur-driven cars is cruising through the legislature.--TM & WS

Vol. 07, Issue 35

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