A new Michigan law meant to help K-12 schools deal with staff shortages is having an adverse effect on athletic departments across the state.
As reported by NBC affiliate WILX in Onondaga, the law was written to allow retired teachers to come back to work to help to deal with the teaching shortage around the state. It requires them to be retired for at least nine months before taking a job with a school — even a coaching job — to avoid cuts to their pensions.
That has put some coaches in an unenviable position.
Pat Murray was a coach of cross country and track and field at East Lansing High School for 20 years. He learned over the summer he won’t be able to return in the fall.
“Mostly I felt like I was letting them down for some reason,” Murray said, of his team's members. “You know those athletes that I worked with from their freshman year and not wanting to leave them hanging without me on their senior year and then thinking that I have to do that was really frustrating.”
Speaking for the Michigan High School Athletic Association, MSHAA.org senior editor Geoff Kimmerly said the law is unintentionally targeting retirees who want to continue coaching.
“This isn’t a new thing we have many coaches who stick around to coach for years and years after they’re done teaching," Kimmerly told WILX. "It’s a great way to keep these very knowledgeable people teaching these life lessons, as part of our school systems, benefiting our children so we really need to figure out a way to make that happen still.”
East Lansing’s athletic director Nicole Norris said it’s a problem for more than just coaches.
“At any given time, we’re trying to find substitute teachers, we’re trying to find officials, we’re trying to find coaches, and without being able to pull from that pool we’re even farther behind than we would be.”
Currently, coaches are still able to volunteer their time. However, East Lansing's Murray and others are hoping to see a wavier passed to allow coaches to return to their teams with pay.