Mon. Dec 4th, 2023

Gov. Brian Kemp unveiled a legislative package Tuesday aimed at recruiting more teachers from the ranks of retired educators and military veterans to boost the quality of Georgia schools.

Tops among the governor-backed bills is a measure allowing retired teachers to return to work at full pay while they continue drawing retirement benefits. Returning teachers would be slotted into vacant positions in “high-needs areas” picked by regional education officials, according to Kemp’s office.

“These hard-working men and women have a wealth of experience and knowledge with decades spent raising up the next generation of leaders,” Kemp said at a news conference. “This initiative will help our retirees, retirement systems and education as a whole.”

Other bills would give military veterans with certain degree and testing requirements better access to teacher certificates; boost training, resources and mentorships for new teachers; and require the state Professional Standards Commission to work with historically Black colleges and universities to increase the number of minority teachers in Georgia schools.

The bills – dubbed the “Teacher Pipeline Package” – will be carried by state Rep. Dominic LaRiccia, R-Douglas, and state Sen. Russ Goodman, R-Homerville, both of whom are floor leaders for Kemp in their respective chambers during the 2021 legislative session.

Teacher-focused bills follow moves by Kemp to avoid more budget cuts to K-12 public schools through June 2022 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, add liability protections for schools from lawsuits brought by virus-infected persons and give educators a one-time $1,000 check.

Many schools across Georgia have struggled after shuttering in-person classes last spring due to the pandemic and battling bouts of COVID-19 outbreaks among students and teachers this past fall. Some school districts are still holding online-only classes or “hybrid” models involving a mix of in-person and virtual instructions.

More than $2 billion in federal aid has been allocated for Georgia schools through two separate relief packages dating to March of last year. Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan said Tuesday the new bills package for teachers aims to help struggling schools keep rebounding from the pandemic.

“We have to continue to prioritize education here in Georgia,” Duncan said.

By senior