Under a bill introduced in the state Senate today, retiring teachers could get extra help with healthcare costs after they leave the classroom.
Senate Bill 5846, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, would offer retiring teachers $250 per month to mitigate healthcare costs, a move Brown says would encourage higher-paid, older teachers to retire and make it easier for young teachers to find work.
“Offering teachers at the end of their career a health-care bridge to retirement is way to thank them for their years of service in our classrooms, allow school districts to save money on payroll, and provide younger teachers more opportunities to begin their teaching careers,” said Brown, a Spokane Democrat, in a press release announcing the measure.
Under the bill, members of plan 1 of the Teachers’ Retirement System in the state, meaning teachers who began working before 1977, would be eligible for the monthly healthcare subsidy if they retire this summer. The payments would last from September 2011 to August 2014.
Rich Wood of the Washington Education Association, the union for public school employees in the state, said the association supports the bill, which could apply to about 5,000 retirement-eligible teachers.
With the number of teaching positions dwindling in the state, Wood said, providing retirement incentives could be a good idea.
“For every teacher who retires, that, potentially, is one teacher not getting laid off,” he said.
Under Gov. Chris Gregoire’s budget proposal, state funding for teacher salary increases, class size reductions and programs such as all-day kindergarten in some schools would be cut.
Brown’s proposal comes after the introduction of two bills, Senate bill 5399 and House Bill 1609, that would have required school districts to make teacher lay-off decisions based on performance rather than seniority. Neither of those proposals made it out of committee.