The Blog

Assembly Speaker, Retirement Committee Chair Pledge to Keep Teachers’ Pensions Secure

Accompanied by Assembly Public Employees, Retirement, and Social Security Chair Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), Assembly Speaker John Perez (D-Los Angeles) tells reporters at a Wednesday morning Capitol news conference that the Assembly is committed to having the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) 100% funded.  The lawmakers said they would be convening hearings beginning Feb. 19 to determine the exact size of the currently unfunded liability and the proportion of increased contributions that should come from school districts, individual teachers, and the state to ensure the system’s continued viability. (Photo by Len Feldman.)

Assembly Speaker John Perez (D-Los Angeles) and Assembly Member Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) pledged during a Capitol morning news conference to fully fund the California State Teachers’ Retirement System and protect teachers’ retirements.  The legislators said all options are “on the table” except the “ostrich” option of pretending a problem doesn’t exist.

The two legislators said they would hold a series of hearings beginning on Feb. 19 that would build on already held state Senate hearings to find a solution to the system’s “unfunded” liability, variously estimated to be $71 billion by the legislators and more than $80 billion by Gov. Jerry Brown’s Department of Finance.

Assembly Speaker Perez said the hearings and stakeholder meetings would help determine the exact size of the problem and the solutions, which would include increases in contributions from school districts, individual teachers, and the state.

The Speaker emphasized that the state would not renege on its commitment to educators by walking away from its responsibility to help fund the solution.

CTA believes making sure educators have a secure retirement is critical to attracting and keeping quality educators in the profession. The state must ensure the retirement commitments made to our hard-working teachers.  That is why CTA has been having serious discussions about how to ensure CalSTRS continues to maintain fiscal solvency.

The lawmakers noted that while CalSTRS achieved double-digit returns on investments this year, rising yields alone will not resolve the problem.

The Speaker said he is interested in seeing a solution that begins this year, but he also noted that districts might be hard-pressed to increase their contributions mid-year at a time they are trying to recover from years of devastating cuts.

The lawmakers said that educators have a right to a secure pension system and that teachers will not bristle at having to increase their contributions to help make that happen. Assembly Member Bonta stated that he expected that the ultimate solutions would be amended into a measure of his that has already made it to the Senate. The shortfall did not happen overnight and it cannot be addressed overnight. It is going to take time, commitment and collaboration. CTA believes in a fair share, comprehensive solution with increases in contributions from the state, school districts as well as educators.

Assembly Member Bonta stressed that for most teachers, CalSTRS pension is the only retirement they receive, because they are generally not eligible to earn Social Security benefits. CTA agrees that teachers have modest retirement benefits and that is why all parties have to work together to craft an ongoing, stable solution that will not harm education and make it more difficult to attract and retain quality educators. 

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