Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Teacher Pension Woes

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Teacher Pension Woes

Article excerpt

A new national report on the teacher pension systems in all 50 states offers a grim picture of the amount of pension debt and teachers' lack of access to flexible and fair benefits.

"Optimistic projections, willful ignorance, and continued deferral of consequences hang like a fog over the teacher pension policy landscape," said Sandi Jacobs, one of the report's authors. "At this point, state teacher pensions won't turn around with just a few good years on Wall Street. The crisis can't be solved without intentional action by policymakers."

The report, coauthored by the National Council on Teacher Quality and Education-Counsel, presents a number of key findings:

* Inadequate funding. South Dakota and Wisconsin are the only states with fully funded teacher pension systems. Only seven states have teacher pension systems funded at 90% or higher. Illinois ranks at the bottom with just 42% of its obligations funded.

* Large pension debt. Nationwide, more than two-thirds of every dollar contributed by employers to teacher retirement systems goes to servicing pension debt rather than funding current retiree benefits (or is saved for future benefits for teachers contributing now).

* Limited flexibility. In 38 states, teachers are only able to enroll in defined benefit pension plans. Only Alaska provides teachers with a flexible defined contribution plan. Six states--Florida, Michigan, Ohio, South Carolina, Utah, and Washington--offer teachers a choice. …

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