Public hearings have been held on a bill to raise the minimum retirement age for teachers and other public employees in Wisconsin.
SB 612 / AB 670 would raise the minimum retirement age for teachers to 59.5, who can now retire at 55. Under the proposal, retired public employees could work up to 36 months while collecting their pensions. The bill would apply to employees under the age of 40. While the bill would apply to teachers, a primarily female workforce, it would not apply to employees in male-dominated fields of protective services, including police officers, firefighters, most correctional officers and the state patrol.
Sen. Duey Stroebel, one of the bill’s authors, said the change was about fairness, and said the bill was necessary even though the WRS is among the most stable pension systems in America. He exited the room before WEAC Vice President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen testified. Wirtz-Olsen, a Marshfield teacher, asserted the bill “smacks of injustice.”
“One of the stated goals of this legislation is making it easier to hire retired teachers, as a solution to teachers leaving the profession in alarming numbers,” she said. “Carving out educators as a workforce and shouldering them with additional barriers because they chose to teach children will not attract and keep qualified teachers in our classrooms. Teachers just entering the profession say it’s one more sign that our state doesn’t value them. It’s one more reason to rethink teaching in Wisconsin.”
The Wisconsin Association of School Boards helped draft the bill and has registered in support. Opposed to the bill, in solidarity with WEAC are AFSCME International Union, the Association of Wisconsin School Administrators, WiRSA, the Wisconsin Association of School Business Officials, the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators, the Wisconsin Association of School Personnel Administrators, the Wisconsin Council for Administrators of Special Services, and the Wisconsin Retired Educators Association.
Also testifying on the bill, the Wisconsin Retirement System said creating a different set of benefits for workers who are under 40 could open the door to a lawsuit.
It is unclear if the committees will act quickly on the bill with votes. A similar bill died in the Legislature two years ago when Republicans controlled all levers of state government. The Legislature is expected to be in full session a few times in February and is expected to adjourn for the year no later than March.