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Northern Michigan school districts question bill aimed at combating teacher shortage

“The shortage is real, and it doesn’t appear to be getting a whole lot better” - Rick Heitmeyer, Kalkaska Public Schools superintendent

As Northern Michigan School Districts continue to struggle with staffing shortages, state lawmakers are considering a new bill that they hope will solve staffing shortages plaguing school districts across the state.

The new bill would do away with a previous law that prevented those in the state retirement system from returning to work at a school district for nine months.

Buckley Community Schools Superintendent Jessica Harrand admitted that her district has struggled to hire in every position including bus drivers and coaches. The new law would allow recently retired bus drivers to keep their Commercial Driver’s License and allow school retirees to return to work quicker.


“It would certainly give relief to the building around day-to-day activities,” Harrand admitted.

However, while the nine-month waiting would be nixed, the caveat is retirees who return within that nine-month period would not be able to earn more than $10,100 per calendar year. So, while Harrand says it will help the coach and school bus driver shortage, the Superintendent of Kalkaska Public Schools Rick Heitmeyer, pointed out that it won’t help school districts hire more teachers.

“We’re going to ask a teacher who has 30 years of experience to come in and make 30 to 50% of what they were making before they retired, for the same job, the same duties, all of that. That’s going to be a hard sell,” Heitmeyer stated.

They say while they appreciate state lawmakers looking at the issue, they say they still have a long way to go before they make a real dent in the shortage.


“I think there’s going to be lots of things that have to be implemented in order to really support a robust workforce in the education world, but I do think this is a positive step in that direction and is one piece that will contribute,” Harrand said.

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