- The Jackson Public School District in Mississippi, where 1,000 of its 1,800 teaching positions are held by teachers with less than three years of classroom experience and 184 teacher slots are filled by long-term substitutes, is actively recruiting retired teachers, according to The Hechinger Report.
- Officials in the district, which is underfunded and has seen more than its fair share of retirements in recent years, see the recruitment of retired teachers as a way to fill positions in the midst of shortages and to bring stability and mentorship to the district.
- Alvin Thornton, former chair of the Maryland Commission on Education Finance, Equity, and Excellence, argues that recruitment of retired teachers may be a temporary fix for school districts, but is not a long-term solution.
Mississippi is not the only state is that seeing an increase in the recruitment of retired teachers. Several states, including Michigan and Georgia, have rewritten the laws governing retirement pay to make the option of returning to the classroom more attractive to retired teachers. As the teacher shortage continues to grow, the recruitment of retired teachers will likely increase, often at higher costs to states and school districts.
Retired teachers not only fill a void in the classroom. They also bring in years of experience and wisdom that can be helpful in mentoring younger teachers, especially in areas that have a larger percentage of beginning educators. Because retired teachers often view education as a mission or a calling, they can also impart a sense of that long-term commitment to beginning teachers.
Recruiting retired teachers, however, is only a temporary solution to a long-term problem. Better solutions need to be found through building teacher pipelines in high school and through college recruitment. Financial incentives in terms of tuition aid can help in this regard, but aspiring teachers still need to be presented with the vision of what teaching entails. Teach for America also allows for recruitment of teachers from other professions and is playing a larger role in many school districts. Teacher pay and benefits are only part of the reason recruitment and retention of teachers is difficult. Other areas of concern include paperwork, stress, the school environment, a lack of respect and student discipline issues, which suggests that school leaders need to pay attention to working conditions as well.