It started with a story about some kids who asked for help getting teachers in their school. School leaders said because of a teacher shortage, it is impossible to fill all openings. One woman then wrote FixMySchool@wxyz.com with a solution. She said lawmakers need to pass a bill so retired school professionals can go back to work without penalty when there is a critical need, for the sake of kids.
Retired speech pathologist Teri Roberts wrote that such a bill already existed. House Bill 4059 had passed in the house in March 2015, but needed senate approval. It then sat in the Senate Education Committee, chaired by Sen. Phil Pavlov for about eight months. She asked why senators weren’t prioritizing it as kids sat in classes without teachers.
7 Action News responded to her e-mail by going to Lansing and asking that question in the offices of numerous senators. The next day it was passed in the senate and it soon became law.
Now the Detroit Institute of Children says the new law is impacting the lives of kids. The institute provides schools with specialists such as speech pathologists and therapists to help special needs students.
“The need is great,” said CEO Marge LaRuffa.
Demand for the institute's services grew 30% last year and continues to grow.
Last year she tried hiring some retirees, but when they realized that if they worked they made less income because the law then forced them to give up their pensions and benefits - they quit. This new law changes that situation when there is a shortage of workers.
“Sometimes retirement is a little boring,” said Roberts.
Now that that is no longer the law when there is a critical need, Teri Roberts is coming out of retirement part-time. She now will be helping fill the demand for speech pathologists in schools by working for the Detroit Institute for Children.
“We know from just those we have worked with that these are incredibly talented people who have a lot to offer,” said LaRuffa of retired school professionals. “It is a win-win for everybody, especially for the kids.”