Auto-hiring of public retirees should end now

Hardly any of us would think twice about accepting a benefit that was perfectly legal and we saw others receiving.

So we can't blame teachers, school administrators, police chiefs and other government workers for seizing the opportunity to retire and keep on collecting a paycheck.

Who wouldn't like to receive a gigantic pay raise while doing the same job?

But we also admire Lewiston School Superintendent Bill Webster's perfectly legal and principled decision not to play that game. When a teacher or administrator retires from the Lewiston schools, they will be retired from teaching or administrating in that system.

Predictability, the new policy rankles teachers who had not yet taken advantage of the lucrative perk, and it bothers at least one school board member who retired and then returned to education in other capacities.

Well, there's a new sheriff in town and we have a strong suspicion the taxpaying public would support Bill Webster's position.  In fact, we have no doubt it would.

Only a small and rapidly diminishing number of private-sector employees even have defined benefit pensions. Public sector workers do, although the governor and the Republican Legislature sharply re-defined those public plans last year.

Again, among most non-government workers — many of whom not only earn less than today's teachers while working but are looking forward to a life of far more modest Social Security benefits — there was widespread support for Gov. Paul LePage's plan.

On a practical level, Webster's rule may be right 90 percent of the time, but it may also be foolhardy not to allow for exceptions, especially in a rural state like Maine.

In a Sun Journal story Sunday, Rob Walker of the Maine Education Association said all districts don't "have the luxury" of refusing to hire retirees.

In Fort Kent, he pointed out, a physics teacher who is gifted and talented retired and then the district couldn't find a comparable person to take the job.

So, the school did the practical thing to benefit students — it rehired the employee into the same job.

That's the way any employment system is supposed to work — find the most qualified person and hire him or her.

Judging by the large number of teachers and administrators taking advantage of this perk, that is clearly not happening in all districts.

In too many places, there is a wink-and-nod agreement between principals and superintendents to rehire recent retirees into their old job. 

That is wrong and it should change.

When a person retires, he or she should be told they are welcome to apply for the position, but unless they have exceptional skills that simply cannot be replaced, they will not be offered a job.

No guarantees; just a roll of the dice.

Sure, experience matters in any job. But new employees bring new ideas and often different competencies to a job. Simple seniority has far too long been the coin of the realm in education.

The decision to rehire a retired teacher should be supported by evidence and the ultimate decision should be made by the elected school board, not a principal or even superintendent who may have a vested interest in this archaic process.

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.

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Elaine Fitzgerald's picture


Interesting that the full info re: the # of people in just education are not reported. I am positive that if this report delved more deeply into the numbers one would find that the majority of those in education taking advantage of this would be administrators, not teachers!!! Of the teachers in such positions you will find that many are part-time positions - not jobs others are interested in taking. In the district I reside in there are 0 teachers in such positions, but, 2, highly paid administrators. Look more deeply!

ERNEST LABBE's picture

A retired Teamster

A retired Teamster cannot be employed in any job in the U.S. that is done by union workers anywhere in the U.S. If fortunate enough to find a non union job the retiree cannot work more than 40 hours a month at that job.

Why so that young people can find employment.


The goal

I would think the goal for a school superintendent would be to fill teaching positions with the most qualified person for the least amount of money he can. Right now we have a glut of teachers due to many school departments cutting back but just over the horizon will be a mass retirement of baby boomer teachers. That, and the lack of appeal for the teaching profession among college students will probably cause a shortage. From my experience the very rural and very urban school districts suffer the most from this. That should, in my opinion, require a little more flexibility in hiring policy.

Robert McQueeney's picture

Shouldn't retirement mean

Shouldn't retirement mean just that? Retirement, as in not working anymore. Go back to work and fill a position, when so many are unemployed, should stop the retirement benefits. You are either working or retired, and paid accordingly. America can not afford this kind of waste, legal or not. What is the national debt right now anyways?

JOANNE MOORE's picture


The national debt has nothing to do with a retiree going on to another job. That's like cleaning out the outhouse with a teaspoon and starting at the bottom of the pile.

There is 20 to 32 TRILLION dollars being sheltered by the richest of the richest. Why not go after them? Why always pick on the easy targets? The little guy trying to make his old age more comfortable. Or the retired serviceman, policeman, firefighter, teacher, etc. who still have many good working years left. Years in which he WILL be paying taxes and be a useful citizen instead of hoarding his money and assets in a Swiss bank account or in the Cayman Islands or wherever.

Are you saying that a retired person, living on a fixed income isn't supposed to better himself? Is that what you want? More people on welfare and foodstamps and heating assistance? Living in a dump or in a shelter?

Not too swift there, Bucko.

Joe Morin's picture


Perhaps we should arrest anyone considered "wealthy" incarcerate them, confiscate their private property and distribute it among the retired policemen & teachers who are living in dumpsters. If I were a Communist cat lady that painted for a living I suppose I would feel the same.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Great response, Joe...I guess

Great response, Joe...I guess in the context of bullpukeys, that would be a SCORE.

Robert McQueeney's picture

Here is the issue

This sort of thing affects us immediately and locally. It has direct impact on us. If the man wants to keep working, then keep working. If he wants to retire, then retire. That action has the benefit of freeing up a spot for those who want to work.

To say that someone else is doing it on a grander scale so we should let this slide is like saying shoplifting should be allowed because the head of the Turnpike misappropriated funds for his use on a grander scale. Neither action is right and both ought to be stopped.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Very well stated sir. If one

Very well stated sir.
If one wants to retire; then retire, and take your handsome pension with you. If you want to keep working after retirement, then go to Walmart and be a 'greeter'; and leave your old job (which you voluntarily walked away from) for someone else to have a shot at. It should not be any other way. If you want to retire and then go back to your old job for your old salary, then you should FORFEIT THE PENSION!!


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