What policymakers and others have failed to ask is how well the current pension system is serving its workers, particularly teachers. While many assume that the current problems lie solely in the state’s failure to properly manage its finances, few consider the design of the current plan and the impact it has on teachers. This report concludes that by adopting an alternative retirement plan for teachers, the state could improve its financial situation and provide better benefits for teachers.
As of September 2015 pension costs were $1,085 per pupil. The reasons for the dramatic rise in pension costs for school employees vary from state to state, but the main cause is payments to amortize the enormous unfunded liabilities that have come to exist as states and districts have deferred payments on benefits they have promised to their teachers and other employees.
So overall expenditures are up, but teacher salaries are actually down slightly over the same period. Today, the average public school teacher earns $56,689 annually, a couple hundred dollars less than the average teacher salary 20 years ago (in constant dollars). Why is this happening? This puzzle can be explained by three trends eating into teachers’ take- home pay: rising healthcare costs, declining student/teacher ratios, and rising retirement costs.