Subject: DRS Email 13-023, Charter School membership eligibility...

  • Notice No.: 13-023
  • Date: October 11, 2013
  • Applies to: School Districts and Educational Service Districts
  • Subject: DRS Email 13-023, Charter School membership eligibility with DRS plans

This Department of Retirement System (DRS) Notice contains critical information that needs to be shared with your Superintendent and School Board. DRS does not maintain email addresses for your Superintendents so we ask that you please forward this DRS Notice to them.

At this time, employees hired by a charter school cannot become members of any of the Department of Retirement Systems’ plans.

It is important that those applying to form a charter school and those seeking employment are aware of this benefit issue.

Last November, voters approved Initiative 1240 to authorize the establishment of charter schools in Washington State. The Washington State Board of Education is responsible for the implementation and oversight of the state’s new charter schools law. The initiative is codified in Chapter 28A.710 RCW, Charter Schools. The law states that employees of charter schools are not eligible for membership with the Department of Retirement Systems until approval is received from the IRS, per the following section that was added to chapters 41.32(TRS), 41.35(SERS) and 41.40(PERS) RCW regarding membership in DRS retirement plans:

Membership in system – Charter school employers and employees.

This section designates charter schools established under chapter 28A.710 RCW as employers and charter school employees as members, and applies only if the department of retirement systems receives determinations from the internal revenue service and the United States department of labor that participation does not jeopardize the status of these retirement systems as governmental plans under the federal employees' retirement income security act and the internal revenue code.

A private letter ruling from the IRS would be needed to approve membership. DRS has been advised that the IRS has suspended making any rulings on this topic at this time. The IRS has not shared or communicated any timeline about when it may reopen the private letter ruling process regarding this issue.

Should you have questions, please reply to this notice or call Employer Support Services at 360-664-7200, option 2, or 800-547-6657, option 6, option 2.