Posts tagged pensions
Posts tagged pensions
Somewhere around ten years ago, our legislature (Ohio) and the state teachers retirement system (STRS) became worried that baby boomers would be retiring en masse and schools would be unable to accommodate the loss. Therefore, these two groups decided to provide an incentive to keep teachers in the classroom a bit longer. Traditionally, teachers worked 30 years, then retired on a pension that provided 66% of the average of their three highest salary years. The incentive would still allow teachers to retire at 30 years with 66%, however, if a teacher stayed an extra five years they would get 88% of the average of their three highest salary years. Quite an incentive, and to be honest, it enticed me to stay an extra five years (I just retired).
These past two years the economic downturn has finally hit education, so now STRS cannot keep its legislated goal of being solvent for 30 years into the future. Among the proposed remedies is to do away with the 35 years option. In fact, the proposal the legislature is considering would require teachers to pay more of their current salaries into the pension fund, and up the retirement requirement to 35 years AND age 60 without the payout bonus of 88%.
To the public, this sounds just fine, more in line with private companies, but to teachers, one of the few perks they have is a decent retirement at a relatively young age. Teachers make less than their private sector peers (despite the pundits claims to the contrary) and coupled with the push for merit pay, the teaching profession is undergoing a major transition that will carry it in a new direction. At this point, current teachers feel adrift and attacked - not a good way to attract new talent into the profession.
I’m watching events in Wisconsin with interest. The governor and legislature were elected with, what they believe, are mandates to cut costs and reign in expenses. However, they also have extended their believed mandate to public employees and their unions. When legislation was introduced to reduce public pensions and roll back collective bargaining rights, people have taken to the streets.
News coverage of the rally in Madison has been fairly balanced. One crucial item that is missing is the government pension offset, which severely reduces, or eliminates, workers who receive a public pension from also receiving Social Security. In my case, if my wife precedes me in death, I will not collect survivor benefits from Social Security. The news needs to mention this when talking about the benefits and perks of being a public employee.
There is not a rally set for Columbus, Ohio on February 22. The new Republican governor and Republican-dominated legislature wants to trim back pension benefits, increase the length of time public employees must work before being eligible for a full pension, and eliminate most of the bargaining rights Ohio public employees enjoy under the state’s collective bargaining law.
This is just the beginning. The Tea Party movement and the Republican wave in the recent elections are starting to be felt in legislation. Now, the people affected by this legislation are starting to organize and rally, and there seems to be little room for discussion and compromise. I expect many of these same public employees voted for some of these conservative legislators as a protest against President Obama’s education policies. Lack of foresight may come back to bite these people hard!
From Salon and the New York Times comes this story outlining a new tactic against public employees, letting states declare bankruptcy, which would then let them go after public employees pensions. This is scary stuff and teachers need to stay on top of this, contacting their congresspeople and senators. Yes, the times are tough, but decent pensions are one of the few perks teachers have. The story contends this is a tactic to break public employees and their unions.
In the report, Reforming Teacher Pensions For A Changing Work Force, The Education Sector says too many burned-out teachers remain in the classroom because of the way teacher pensions are structured. The report advocates restructuring pensions so these teachers are not forced to remain in from of classes for X number of years in order to gain their pension.
Hmmm, seems the problem is teacher burn-out. Why are these teachers feeling this way?What are the stresses that cause this? How could their careers be helped to avoid this condition? Perhaps the critics of teachers should address the problems of lousy educational environments, not enough supplies and books, little help for students with emotional problems, overcrowded classrooms, and the ridiculous pressure of having to drill-and-kill students so the teachers (value-added) and schools (NCLB) will look good to the public.
Don’t Get Me Started…