Legislation filed by State Rep. Bernard LeBas, D-Ville Platte, is aimed at relieving school systems’ shortage of qualified substitute teachers and helping retired teachers supplement their income.
“This is for the students,” LeBas said. “It’s best for students to have qualified teachers everywhere,” but current law limits how much time retired teachers can spend in classrooms without affecting their retirement income.
LeBas’ House Bill 43 seeks to increase the number of days retired teachers can work as substitute teachers without decreasing the size of their retirement checks.
Former teachers collecting benefits through the Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana are prohibited from continuing to receive retirement pay if they return to fulltime teaching. Current law allows them to work as substitute teachers and collect salaries up to 25 percent of their retirement checks, but any pay above that amount results in an equivalent reduction in retirement benefits.
HB43 would raise the salary cap to 50 percent of benefits, so a teacher who’s eligible to teach 50 days would be able to teach 100 days as a substitute without affecting retirement pay.
“School board members and superintendents have expressed interest in this because they can’t find qualified teachers to substitute when a regular teacher is out of the classroom,” LeBas said. “Also, many retired teachers have approached me wanting to be substitute teachers.
“Everyone is saying they have a problem. The whole idea is to offer our students the best possible education,” he said.
Debbie Meaux, president of the Louisiana Association of Educators, said school systems are having “big problems” finding qualified teachers to work as substitutes, especially when a regular teacher is taking extended medical leave, maternity leave or sabbatical.
Because of the salary limitation, substitutes often can work only short-term and “We want to make sure that when a classroom teacher (takes leave), students are not having to change teachers three or four times because they’re reaching the salary cap,” Meaux said.
“If we have to hire substitute teachers, why not have the best teachers for our students?” LeBas said. HB43 is awaiting a hearing in the House Education Committee. The 2015 legislative session begins at noon Monday and must conclude no later than 6 p.m. June 11.