Eric Haley, superintendent of Waterville, Winslow and Vassalboro schools, retired last week after a long career in public education. After 30 days, though, he’ll be right back at his desk.

When he returns, Haley, 63, will be earning his public employee pension along with 75 percent of his most recent salary. He will be, to people suspicious of the practice, a “double dipper,” someone seemingly taking home two checks for one job.

On its face, there is something quite not right about double-dipping — it has the air of a swindle, of a back-room deal where taxpayers lose out.

That just isn’t the case, no matter how much Gov. Paul LePage wants it to be.

LePage has been critical of double dipping for years, calling it “unconscionable” and “absolutely disgusting.” He said people who take advantage of the pension rules have a “character flaw,” even though he has employed double-dippers on at least two occasions as top members of his administration.

The governor doesn’t mention those cabinet officials when the issue comes up. Instead, he rails against superintendents — one of his favorite targets — saying that double dipping is driving up the cost of education.

There is just enough smoke around this issue to make it seem like it might be true, and there is just enough general animus against school officials out there to get people to believe it. But beneath all the spittle and rancor, there’s not much there.

Haley’s case provides a good example. He has paid into the state pension system for four decades now, along with an employer contribution paid by the state. Because of his many years of service, he is already eligible to start receiving those benefits after retirement.

Once he has retired, though, Haley has options. He could simply relax, though Haley said he is not ready for that. He could take a job in the private sector, whether it be running an organization or greeting people at Walmart.

Or he could return to education, putting his considerable experience to use as an administrator, in AOS 92 or elsewhere.

Through all of those cases, nothing changes to local and state taxpayers. The pension system pays out to him the same way whether he starts another job or not. AOS 92 schools still have to pay a salary to a superintendent, whether it is Haley or someone else.

In fact, by returning to his old job, Haley is cutting AOS 92 and the state somewhat of a break. Because he is drawing his retirement, the state no longer has to pay his employer contribution to the pension system, and because he will receive health care through the pension system, the school district doesn’t have to account for that cost. And the district is getting him at 75 percent of his previous salary.

AOS 92 also doesn’t have to go through the difficult process of finding another superintendent in a state where they are scarce.

In fact, with teachers and school administrators aging as a whole and at a shortage in Maine, you’d think LePage would champion any process that keeps more of them in the workforce.

It may appear inappropriate for someone to take retirement then keep working, but the alternative — experienced teachers and administrators leaving education altogether — is actually harmful.

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