Hundreds of retired teachers in Virginia have received a call (back) to action from their governor.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe sent more than 500 teachers a letter last week, asking them to consider going back to work in Petersburg city schools, which currently have 22 vacancies, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The high-poverty district, which is about 30 minutes outside of Richmond, has a high staff turnover rate, and consistently faces teacher shortages.
“The students and schools of Petersburg need exactly the kind of experience and expertise you have to offer as a veteran teacher,” McAuliffe wrote.
Teachers who received the letter had previously taught in districts across the state, but now live near the district. McAuliffe will send a similar letter to teachers in Richmond next year, the Times-Dispatch reports.
In Virginia, teachers who come out of retirement to teach in an area of critical shortage can both receive a new salary and continue collecting their pension, under a 2001 state law. A spokesman for the state department of education told the Washington Post that this might be the first time this law has been aimed at a particular district—usually, it’s meant to fill subject area shortages. (As we’ve reported before, science, math, and special education are typically high-needs areas.)
The Virginia Education Association president told the Post that while the union supports McAuliffe’s attempt to fill the classrooms with qualified teachers, there needs to be a long-term solution.
“Ultimately, this points to a much broader problem that Virginia has,” said Jim Livingston, the union president. “We’re 36th in the nation in per-pupil funding and 30th in the nation in average teacher salary. Salaries in Virginia have not kept pace with the demand, with the increased workload, with the challenge—not just in Petersburg but across the commonwealth.”
Last year, the school district in Clark County, Nev., also tried luring retired teachers back to the classroom in an effort to fill hundreds of vacancies. The district, which includes Las Vegas, allowed retirees to work part-time or as substitutes.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.