By Sharon Hendricks, Los Angeles College Faculty Guild and CalSTRS Board Member
To help part-time faculty understand how districts report service credit and to ensure they receive all service credit they have earned throughout their teaching careers when they retire, CalSTRS has opened new centers in Irvine, Glendale, and Santa Clara, staffed by benefits counselors trained to navigate part-time-faculty issues.
Since 2009, when CalSTRS formed the Community College Part-Time Faculty Task Force to evaluate service credit reporting, evidence has mounted that many community colleges do not provide the retirement system with correctly calculated Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) employment information for each part-time faculty member.
FTE is the hours a part-time employee would be required to work in one academic year if he or she were employed full-time in the same position. CalSTRS calculates a part-time member’s earnable salary by multiplying hourly pay rate by the FTE hours for a specific teaching assignment. However, if an employer reports the same FTE hours for all teaching assignments when they actually have different FTE hours, the service credit reported will be incorrect.
The task force also learned that many districts default to the statutory minimum FTE of 525 hours and apply this to all part-time faculty when reporting service credit. Universal application of the minimum FTE shortchanges some part-timers because teaching assignments have varying FTE hours.
To address this statewide problem, CalSTRS will begin incorporating specific FTE requirements into its audits of community colleges. Information from the audits will then be used to provide district-specific reporting guidance and training. CalSTRS will also evaluate possible amendments to the Education Code that would clarify FTE requirements so that all part-time faculty enrolled in CalSTRS will receive what they have earned upon retirement.
Along with expanding outreach efforts, next steps include evaluating findings from the college audits, and reconvening the task force on an annual basis.
Sharon Hendricks is Vice-Chair of the CalSTRS Board, Retirement Liaison for the Los Angeles College Faculty Guild, AFT Local 1521, and an associate professor at Los Angeles City College.