February 16, 2016

New Video: Teacher Pensions Explained

By Bellwether

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At Bellwether we do work on a variety of issues and one of the more complicated, contentious, and thankless is teacher pensions. People ask us why we work on this given all the politics that swirl around it and the answer is straightforward: Today’s system doesn’t work well for teachers and has a variety of elements we wouldn’t use (or in some cases, for instance vesting rules, couldn’t use because they’d be illegal in the non-public sector) to compensate our own team because they contribute to retirement insecurity at a time when Americans are being asked to largely finance their own retirements.

The big numbers around unfunded pension liabilities get the headlines – and need to be addressed. But we don’t see those issues as the only problem (and while we don’t take organizational positions on any issues our analysts tend to believe that if government makes a promise it should endeavor to keep it). For us the more interesting questions are go-forward ones about how to design teacher retirement schemes that work better for teachers and taxpayers than what we have today. This new video we’re releasing this week takes a look at those issues and how the current system disadvantages most teachers and is why only about one in five can expect to get a full pension.

This video boils some of that down:


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