JUNEAU (AP) -- Alaska teachers who took advantage of early retirement incentives a few years ago could come back to work under a bill that passed the House on Tuesday.
Rep. Con Bunde, R-Anchorage, said the measure could help districts that are struggling with teaching shortages.
House Bill 416 passed unanimously, but not before debate on whether districts should be able to pay those rehired teachers more than other new hires.
Bunde wanted to limit the pay rehired staff could receive to that allowed on a district's salary schedule for teachers new to the district.
Bunde said without that provision he fears school officials might offer ''sweetheart deals'' to let friends retire and come back to work at a $25,000 raise, when retirement benefits are counted.
''That's not the intent of this bill,'' Bunde said.
Rep. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, argued against Bunde's proposed amendment. He said districts need the flexibility to offer more than entry-level pay if they choose.
''The telling argument for me is to look at other states,'' Stevens said.
The teaching shortage is nationwide, he said, and Alaska districts are competing with states that will hire former Alaska teachers with no concern for whether they took advantage of the state's retirement incentive program.
Bunde's amendment failed on a 16-23 vote.
Under the bill, teachers who came back to work could continue receiving their retirement benefits, but would not accrue new years of credit in the retirement system. They could also opt to quit receiving retirement benefits and accrue additional years of credit.
The measure has no cost to the state's teacher retirement system, Bunde said.
The Legislature last year passed a law allowing some retired teachers to return to work, but not those who had taken advantage of retirement incentive programs. House Bill 416 would remove that exclusion.
The measure now goes to the Senate.
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