Archive

ShareThis Page
Pennsylvania’s teacher pension system scores D plus, National Council on Teacher Quality says | TribLIVE.com
Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania’s teacher pension system scores D plus, National Council on Teacher Quality says

Young teachers just joining the Pennsylvania education system may not see much bang for their pension buck, according to a report issued Tuesday.

Pennsylvania’s teacher pension system carries the third highest unfunded liability in the country, findings from the National Council on Teacher Quality show. Pennsylvania ranks seventh in the nation if that $32.6 billion liability is apportioned per student.

“There’s this perception that teacher salaries are low because they have these great benefits, but that isn’t always true,” said Sandi Jacobs, the report’s author and NCTQ vice president. “In most states, Pennsylvania included, the financial health is questionable at best.”

The nonpartisan group’s study gave Pennsylvania a letter grade of D+, just below the national average of C-, and examined not only unfunded liabilities, but also vesting periods, contribution rates and flexibility to move from state to state.

“It’s kind of surprising we got that good of a grade,” said Nate Benefield, vice president of policy analysis for the conservative Harrisburg-based Commonwealth Foundation. “With their take on what makes up good policy, and by those measures, Pennsylvania isn’t in good shape.”

Evelyn Tatkovski Williams, press secretary for the Public School Employees’ Retirement System, said PSERS is aware of the annual survey, and called the issues in it “very subjective in nature.”

Mobility was a major focus of the analysis.

Pennsylvania teachers employed before 2010 were required to fulfill a five-year vesting period — the time it takes to start accruing long-term benefits. That has since been extended to 10 years.

The odds of Pennsylvania’s newest educators collecting earned benefits the way their predecessors have goes down every year, Jacobs said.

“It’s totally common today for teachers to recognize their own mobility,” she said. “We hear it all the time. ‘I don’t know if I’ll be in this state my whole career. I don’t even know if I’ll be a teacher my whole career.’ For those just getting started, it’s increasingly unlikely you’ll be there long enough to collect. Where’s the incentive in that?”

The report found that in 2014, all but three states made teachers wait more than three years to vest in retirement plans. Fifteen states — Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Washington — had vesting periods of 10 years, up from nine states five years ago.

National Council on Teacher Quality is funded in part by the John and Laura Arnold Foundation.

Megan Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at 412-388-5815 or mharris@tribweb.com.


TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.