Educators have serious concerns
With the announcement by the conservative Californians for Pension Reform to suspend its two pension-reform initiatives, CCA/CTA and its coalition partners can continue to focus on the more harmful elements of Gov. Brown’s reform plan, which is now before the state Legislature.
“We agree with the governor in wanting to maintain a strong retirement system, but we are concerned about the impact of some of the points in his proposal on faculty, public education and the economic stability of the state,” said CCA Vice President Lynette Nyaggah.
Implements harmful hybrid
The Governor’s 12-point proposal now before the Legislature implements a “hybrid plan” that combines the current employer-sponsored “defined-benefit” pension with a risky 401(k) style “defined-contribution plan”; increases the retirement age of teachers and public employees from age 60 to 67; and changes the one-year final compensation to the highest average annual compensation over a three year period.
“Budget cuts have already made it harder to attract and retain faculty, and educators want to ensure that the plan doesn’t further diminish the state’s ability to recruit educators in grades K-12 as well as community colleges. We don’t enter the profession for money, but we count on the fact that we have retirement security so we can focus on our students,” Nyaggah said.
While CCA/CTA’s legislative advocates work with the Legislature and governor at the Capitol, current and retired members have been participating in activities sponsored by the Californians for Retirement Security, a coalition composed of 1.5 million active and retired public employees, and the Retirement Coalition, composed of organizations representing retired and working teachers, administrators and community college faculty.
Coalitions take action
Among the actions are “Pension Truth Squads” in various cities across the state, and in news conferences. Their aim has been to demonstrate how teachers and public employees have been scapegoated for problems caused by Wall Street, and pensions are being used as a wedge issue to divide working class Americans.
In one recent action sponsored by the Retirement Coalition on Feb. 7, active and retired educators and community college faculty from across California took to the steps and halls of the state Capitol to explain the damaging consequences of the governor’s pension reform plan to the California State Teachers Retirement System, or CalSTRS.
Like pension funds worldwide, the California State Teachers Retirement System, (CalSTRS), has taken a hit due to the global recession, but it is not bankrupt, nor will it bankrupt the state. CalSTRS has historically been a sound system, and until the market collapse had consistently met or exceeded its assumed rate of return. While the governor’s pension proposal paints a broad stroke of options for reforming California’s pension systems, it does not address the short and long term funding needs of CalSTRS.
In addition, the coalition pointed out, the CalSTRS already has an effective hybrid plan for its members, one that keeps “spiking” from taking place and assists in providing educators with a secure but modest retirement.
“Teachers contribute 8 percent of their salaries every month to pensions over their entire teaching career,” said Gregg Solkovits, a teacher and secondary vice president of United Teachers Los Angeles. “We are counting on our CalSTRS retirement, especially since we don’t receive Social Security.”
Nor are educators in favor of having their retirement age raised.
“People think teaching is all about sitting behind a desk with a book, but it’s much more physically active than that,” explained Ed Foglia, president of CTA/NEA Retired. “If I had to wait until I was 67 to retire, there is no way I would be able to serve my students. Have you ever tried to keep up with a second grader, or manage a class of 38 high school students? It’s a lot tougher than you would think.”
Now that the governor’s proposal is in bill form before Legislature, it will be important for CCA/CTA members to keep up the pressure and let their legislators know where they stand, before the plan goes before the voters.
For more information, go to the Retirement section on CTA’s website at www.cta.org/Issues-and-Action/Retirement/Retirement.aspx.
We don’t enter the profession for money, but we count on the fact that we have retirement security…