Tennessee State Senator Ken Yager (R-Kingston) has filed a bill in the Tennessee General Assembly that he said would, if enacted into law, help school districts across Tennessee address ongoing staffing challenges.

The bill, SB 2702, would allow retired members of the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System (TCRS) to seek reemployment as a K-12 teacher, K-12 substitute teacher, or as a K-12 bus driver. This, without the loss or suspension of the retired member’s TCRS benefits, Yager said in an emailed statement.

Yager did not return The Tennessee Star’s requests for comment on Tuesday to address why schools have staffing shortages and whether they are related to the COVID-19 pandemic. He said in his emailed statement, though, that local school directors brought the matter to his attention, and that many retirees are ready and willing to help.

Currently, some retired members of the TCRS can return to work but only for a maximum of 120 days. This bill would remove that limit, provided that each retiree that participates is 60 or more days past their retirement date.

State Representative Rebecca Alexander (R- Jonesborough) is sponsoring companion legislation, HB 2783, in the state house.

Knox County Schools (KCS) announced last month they would close for a few days due to illness-related staffing shortages. The closure, likely connected to the rise in coronavirus cases in the state, granted students and staff members two days off, in addition to the weekend.

Across the state, coronavirus cases have increased, leading to a high amount of absent students in multiple school systems.

Opponents of the COVID-19 mask mandate point to the high case numbers in both districts with mandates and without. Furthermore, critics highlight the relatively low hospitalizations and deaths among school-aged children.

Some of Tennessee’s educators surveyed last fall said they worried about students missing class time during the time of COVID-19.

Tennessee educators’ top COVID-19 related concern was students missing instructional time during the school year. Teachers indicated fewer challenges for in-person instruction than for remote learning during the 2020-21 school year.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star and The Georgia Star News. Follow Chris on Facebook, Twitter, Parler, and GETTR. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Ken Yager” by Ken Yager. Background Photo “Inside My Classroom” by Marie. CC BY-SA 2.0.