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Blue Model Blues
NYT Highlights Teacher Pension Ponzi Scheme

Are pension reformers “anti-teacher,” as their liberal critics so often charge? Or is it the unions fighting tooth and nail to preserve the status quo? A New York Times examination of pension funding patterns shows that the existing system increasingly benefits only a small minority of teachers—those who spend decades in the same profession and the same state. New teachers and teachers who switch careers are essentially seeing their wages garnished and redistributed to the senior teachers who control the profession’s collective bargaining apparatus:

As teachers across the country retire, their pensions are being subsidized by newly hired teachers to a surprising degree. Teachers’ pension plans have always rewarded long-serving veterans at the expense of short-termers. But now, as more and more plans develop shortfalls, states have been imposing cost-cutting measures, and recent research shows that the newest hires are bearing the brunt of the changes, raising questions of fairness. […]

A traditional pension can be a very attractive benefit, at least for those who work long enough to get back more money than they contribute. But because of high teacher turnover, mobility from state to state and other factors, only a minority of all newly hired teachers succeed in doing that.

Stand-patters in K-12 education policy often accuse Republicans of wanting to slash education funding so that it is harder to attract good teachers. And surely some Republicans want to do this. But perhaps the most important reason teachers have not gotten a raise is because of the failure of blue social policy: Spending on education has continued to increase, but pension mismanagement has forced governments to dig into the wages of new teachers to keep their overly-generous promises to retirees negotiated with feckless legislators by powerful union interests.

This isn’t just a problem for the budget. It also warps incentives for teacher hiring, firing and retention. First, it cements the institution of teaching as a lifelong career, preventing new blood from coming into the system, and discouraging talented young or mid-career people from experimenting in the profession. Second, because pension promises only become an asset after several decades, the costs of getting fired are much higher than they would otherwise be. This encourages teacher unions to do everything they can to make replacement of even the most incompetent teachers as difficult as possible.

Kudos to the Times for covering this story about the way that unreformed blue model governance is harming taxpayers, teachers and students. Hopefully its readers—especially blue state liberals—will pay attention.

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  • Gene

    Education systems exist to educate students; teachers are tools they must use to perform their function.

    Unfortunately many teachers today feel that education systems exist to employ them, with education of students as a side-effect.

  • Fat_Man

    Another reason why the cost of running school systems has run ahead of teacher salaries in the proliferation of administrators.

    I would like to see a study that shows which has been the more expensive problem.

  • Carleton

    lol, sounds like ObamaCare, the youngens have to allow themselves to be fleeced to make up for the huge mismanagement of the system as a whole.

  • FriendlyGoat

    If new teachers can be made to believe that old teachers are their main economic adversaries, there is serious question whether the new teachers are smart enough or well-educated enough to be teaching children.

  • D4x

    Perhaps the question should be if teachers who are not literate should get to teach so they can maybe collect a pension? NYPost reported same day: ” ‘Literacy’ test for teachers may be nixed ”
    By Danika Fears, Kirstan Conley and Selim Algar March 6, 2017 | 10:17pm “…“It’s alarming because we’ve now abandoned or watered down the teacher evaluation process, and now we’re lowering the bar for entry certification as well,” said Charles Sahm, director of education policy at the Manhattan Institute.

    The literacy test has been accused of skewing against minorities and being redundant — but Sahm called it an important tool in
    bringing in qualified candidates.

    “I think it’s important that we increase the share of black and Hispanic teachers, and we certainly don’t have enough here or anywhere. But
    I don’t think this is the way to go,” Sahm said. “This is a literacy exam. If you’re going to be a teacher in New York state, this is a criteria you should be able to meet.”

    A task force that has been reviewing teacher certification exams since May has recommended dropping the ALST. …

    Sources said education officials also were concerned about the disparity between passing rates among white and minority candidates.
    [I aced the ALST in 2003, and then was told, over and over, by educators at CUNY, that I was ‘too smart to be a teacher’. Went into shock reading this today. It is still all about the teachers, not the students.]

    • ვეფხისტყაოსანი

      Sahm: “criteria” is plural; if you use an indefinite article, you must use the singular, “criterion.” And you definitely should not commit solecisms when criticizing teachers’ literacy — all the more so when you’re in the right and even if none of the objects of your critique are capable of recognizing your error.

      • D4x


  • ვეფხისტყაოსანი

    Please name a Republican who “want[s] to slash education funding so that it is harder to attract good teachers.”

    If you can’t name one, then please delete your irresponsible and insulting slur against those men and women who, unlike teacher-union goons and Democrats, actually care about American childrens’ education.

    And to those who object to my description of teachers’ unions and Democrats — please provide a plausible counterexample.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Perhaps the most important reason teachers have not gotten a raise is because of the failure of blue social policy: Spending on education has continued to increase, but pension mismanagement has forced governments to dig into the wages of new teachers to keep their overly-generous promises to retirees negotiated with feckless legislators by powerful union interests.”

    In Red States education is squeezed too, due to soaring pension costs. But instead of pension costs soaring because pensions were retroactively increased, compared to what was promised when teachers were hired, in Red States pension costs are soaring due to the failure to pay for the pensions teachers were promised to begin with. So taxes could be cut. In many cases those teachers are not entitled to Social Security, and are facing a future with neither pensions nor Social Security.

    So the Democrats and the unions and the Republicans and publications like this one point fingers in a circle. All to distract attention from the reality. Younger generations of Americans have been robbed by Generation Greed. It’s across the board, not just in education, not just in public policy. And what no one wants to mention is what Democrats have often done on public employee pensions — retroactive pension increases for those cashing in and moving out, cuts in pay and benefits for new hires and service cuts — Republicans have done in Washington with taxes and federal old age benefits.

    • inky799

      The Serf king comments on the red states. Ask him what he knows about education in any state and you will realize the only thing he wants is someone anyone to read his site.

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