Making it worse

State Sen. Eugene Yaw in a recent story on public employee pensions says he supports forcing new teachers into a defined contribution, 401(k)-style plan. I commend Sen. Yaw for his concern about this issue, but this idea won’t solve the pension debt problem in fact, it will make the problem worse by not continuing to add funds to the current system which means it will eventually run dry due to current pension pay-outs.

This will leave teachers like myself with little or no pension at all as I near retirement. Over the course of my career I have contributed approximately 7.5% of my salary to this fund, much like educators before me, relying on the promise that those funds would be managed properly for my future. Over the past decade teachers, support staff, and administrators have paid our portion into the plan while the state and the school districts have not paid in their full portion. This lack of full payment by the state and districts has created the issue with pension funds.

It is not a situation the educational profession has created it is one the state and school district created, yet we as a profession are supposed to clean up this political fiasco. The politicians seem to forget changes they made to their pension plans at the same time, which are far more burdensome to the taxpayer than our plan and yet changes are not being mentioned regarding their pensions and benefits.

Conversion to a 401(k)-type plan is not the solution some believe it to be, because it does not allow the pension system to escape debts already incurred. Alaska passed legislation to close its teacher plan to new hires when the employer pension rate hit 16 percent in 2005. The law was passed to save money for taxpayers, but instead the employer contribution rate spiked in Alaska and today is now more than 50 percent of salary.

In 2010, Pennsylvania’s teachers, nurses, and law enforcement officers agreed to reduce pension benefits and raise the retirement age in order to save the taxpayers $33 billion over the next 30 years.

Under the pension reform law of 2010 the employer cost going forward is only 2.2 percent of salary. Any alternative proposal would have to be lower than that to justify any change to the present system.

Carol Johnson


Loyalsock Township High School