Sponsors of two education bills introduced Thursday say they are aimed at attracting new teachers and getting retired educators back in the classroom.
Gov. Haley Barbour was backed by both legislators and educators as he added his endorsement to the plan.
"I want new incentives to recruit teachers into the field who would otherwise not choose the profession," said Barbour. "At what should be the peak of their careers, I want new incentives to keep some of our most experienced teachers teaching in our public schools. Some of those teachers are currently being pushed toward early retirement by negative financial incentives."
Currently to be a teacher in Mississippi you must be an education major. Barbour said we should allow future teachers to major in something other than education and teach that subject when they get their degree.
"If we're trying to attract a future chemistry teacher to the Delta, we should give incentives to teach to students who majored in chemistry," said Barbour.
The other bill, co-authored by Sen. Videt Carmichael of Meridian, would allow teachers to come out of retirement if needed, draw their pension money and a school teacher's salary, without one affecting the other.
Teachers can retire after 25 years of service and many of them do, only to continue teaching in private schools or another state. This would retain them for Mississippi public schools.
"The main part of the bill is you have to be retired at least one year," said Carmichael. "So we've had teachers who have already retired and there's a need now. That's the key to it. The district would have to say there's a need in this specific subject area or this specific area where they need to hire this teacher. Now this teacher can be hired on a year to year basis, one year at a time. That means if we've got other teachers who are qualified coming in, they really have precedence over these retirees."
There would be a five year limit on how long a previously retired teacher could come back and teach. They would not have to contribute to the retirement system again, but the schools would, as if the teacher had not retired.