Committee looks to retirees as a way to fill teaching positions

Monitor staff
Published: 9/21/2022 5:18:25 PM

About 330 retired teachers are continuing to work part-time in New Hampshire schools while collecting their retirement pensions, as permitted by a state law that allows retired public employees to return to work if they keep their work under 1,352 hours per year.

About 10% of members of the New Hampshire Retirement System – state employees, teachers, police officers, and firefighters – return to work in a part-time capacity after retirement, according to New Hampshire Retirement System legislative affairs director Marty Karlon.

It’s a provision that allows retirees to earn a pension and a paycheck, and in industries like teaching that are experiencing staffing shortages it’s being tapped as a potential solution. However, teachers currently make up only about 13% of employees who return to work after retiring.

The legislative Committee to Study New Hampshire Teacher Shortages and Recruitment began looking at retirement system information this week. The committee is tasked with examining potential solutions to teacher staffing shortages, including the student population currently enrolled in teacher prep programs and the state’s retired teacher population.

“We’d like to understand better the capability of retired teachers, educators, to come back into the profession to help districts fill the vacancies that currently exist,” said state Sen. Jay Kahn, the committee chair. “There are examples of educators who would like to do that, and in fact are doing that out of state. What kind of limitations currently exist to their coming back into the profession?”

Given the school year is generally 180 days, teachers can work up to 37.5 hours per week without hitting the annual cap on hours, allowing them to return to nearly full-time work.

While New Hampshire schools haven’t seen the same unprecedented waves of quitting and retirements that some professions saw during the Great Resignation, the challenge for many school districts has been finding enough candidates to fill the positions generated by routine turnover.

“The pandemic didn’t cause an exodus of teacher retirements, in our experience,” Karlon told lawmakers.

The committee also examined teacher salary information Wednesday.

New Hampshire’s average teacher salary of $61,849 is slightly under the national average of $65,293, according to data from a 2022 NEA report. Among nearby New England states, it falls well below Massachusetts’s average salary of $86,755 but above Maine’s which is $57,167.

For teachers who are just beginning their careers, New Hampshire’s average starting salary is $39,737, which is slightly below the national average of $41,770. Again, New Hampshire falls well behind the average starting salary in nearby Massachusetts which is $48,372.

Within the state, salaries are varied, with wide disparities between the highest and lowest-paying districts, usually based on the wealth of the sending towns. Statewide, Exeter Region Cooperative School District offers the highest average teacher salary at $86,000, according to Department of Education data, while Croydon offers the lowest at $33,244. Landaff offers the highest starting salary for new teachers at $59,752, while Erroll offers the lowest starting salary at $31,712.

Representatives from the education policy organization Reaching Higher shared data showing that the difference in starting salary for teachers starting out in the highest-paying versus lowest-paying districts in the state is 59%. The amount a teacher earns in the state vastly depends on what town they are working in, regardless of what “step,” or rank in their career they’ve achieved.

“A step-18 teacher with a bachelor’s degree in the lowest paying district could be making the same salary as a first-year teacher, say someone who is right out of college and happens to be working in the highest-paying district,” said Reaching Higher policy analyst Matt Gerding.

Salary tends to coincide with the poverty level of the families in the district. The districts with the lowest teacher salaries in the state are typically those with less property wealth and a higher percentage of students on Free & Reduced Lunch, while the districts that offer the highest salaries tend to be in property-rich towns with fewer students on Free & Reduced Lunch.

Teachers also tend to get paid less than professionals in other industries with the same level of education, according to AFT-NH president Deb Howes, who testified to the committee Wednesday. Both Howes and the representatives from Reaching Higher said New Hampshire teachers make about 19% less than their college-educated, non-teaching counterparts.

“You don’t earn that much, you don’t have the job security you would have had if you went into this 20 years ago, you don’t have the same kind of benefits that you were looking at then,” Howes said. “That is part of what we are competing against when you’re asking people to consider teaching instead of going to a different industry.”


Eileen O

Eileen O'Grady is a Report for America corps member covering education for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. O’Grady is the former managing editor of Scope magazine at Northeastern University in Boston, where she reported on social justice issues, community activism, local politics and the COVID-19 pandemic. She is a native Vermonter and worked as a reporter covering local politics for the Shelburne News and the Citizen. Her work has also appeared in The Boston Globe, U.S. News & World Report, The Bay State Banner, and VTDigger. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northeastern University and a bachelor’s degree in politics and French from Mount Holyoke College, where she served as news editor for the Mount Holyoke News from 2017-2018.



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