I-Team Report: Double Dipping?

(Source: WNEM)

We work for years to get the opportunity to leave the grind behind and relax.

“I guess the main thing was to be able to do what I wanted to do, whenever I wanted to do it,” said retired educator Nick Roberts.

Roberts spent almost 40-years teaching math and science, and was even a Middle School Principal in Mt. Pleasant.

He said he loved it.“The curiosity of the kids, you know, they’re coming in, ‘what are we going to do today? Oh, that was fun!’ You know, planning something and then seeing how they respond to it.”

But, he felt it was the right time to hang up his lesson plans, and enjoy life by hitting the gym, traveling at least three times a year, and reading more than he could have imagined.

But the pull of the classroom was too much.

He got a call from one of his former colleagues asking if he knew of any qualified young teachers.

He didn’t, but said he knew of a seasoned educator who could help.

So, now he’s back in the classroom as a substitute teacher, being paid by the district while collecting his pension.

But is that legal, and should it be?

Many people are asking the very same question about the head of the Michigan State Police, Colonel Kristie Etue.

In October, Etue announced her plans to retire, making her eligible for a one-time payment of $500,000 and a yearly pension of more than $90,000.

But Gov. Snyder said he intends to rehire her into that same position, at her current salary.

Two cases from very different ends of the spectrum.

Many think it’s a case of double dipping, but according to the State’s Office of Retirement, that’s not the case.

“I would say it’s not common, but it does happen. There are times, when as an employer, the state needs to find a certain level of expertise, or certain knowledge. And sometimes a retired member of state police, civilian ranks, or state employment systems is the place to go get that,” said Kurt Weiss, with the State’s Office of Retirement.

He said he wants to be clear about one thing, when it comes to so-called double dipping and state workers.

“But they cannot collect their pension and a salary at the same time, so this term you hear about double dipping all the time. The retirement act in the State of Michigan prevents double dipping.”

So, Colonel Etue would not be able to collect both her pension and salary.

She can either retire, and receive just her pension, or return to her position and earn just her salary.

But, what about Rick Roberts and other public-school workers. What are the rules for them?Well, it appears state lawmakers are still trying to sort that out.

“What we’re after is making sure that we fill that hole for our kids with substitute teachers that are qualified. And they need as many teachers as possible,” said Representative Holly Hughes.

She introduced a bill aimed at filling the critical shortage of teachers.

It allows retirees to still receive their pension while getting paid to substitute teach.

That legislation is still working its way through the state legislature.

“A thousand, or 1500 classrooms in Michigan going without a teacher is ridiculous,” Hughes told the I-Team. “They may live down the street, they know the district, they know the kids, and they have the experience. So why not use them?”

Whether trying to fill the desperate need for qualified teachers or simply trying to hold on to an employee because of the special level of expertise they possess, when a retiree decides to get back into the game; state officials said they are doing what they can to ensure that your tax dollars are being protected.

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