Union Boss-Negotiated Pension Plans Are a Bad Deal For Most Teachers


Teacher pensions are a bad deal for teachers – Public Sector Inc 

As a new analysis points out, more than 70% of teachers leave the profession before they reach 20 years of service. Only a small minority of teachers are employed exclusively in K-12 education for 3o years or more. However, the defined-benefit pension plans routinely sought and obtained by teacher union officials shortchange educators who choose not to spend the vast majority of their working years employed in K-12 schools. Image: mn.gov/board-of-teaching

A new study prepared for the Manhattan Institute (MI) by Marcus Winters and Josh McGee, and summarized in a post last week for the MI’s Public Sector Inc. blog (see the link above),  adds to the mountain of evidence that union officials who purport to wield their government-granted monopoly-bargaining power in ways that benefit all employees are either deluding themselves or lying.  Rather, monopoly-bargaining privileges are routinely wielded to benefit some employees at the expense of others.

Pension systems that are favored by the teacher union hierarchy and, largely for that reason, standard in K-12 public school systems practically throughout the country, enable teachers to “accumulate relatively little retirement wealth for their first couple of decades,” as Winters and McGee show.  And this means the vast majority of teachers accrue only very small pensions over the course of their entire teaching career, because 70% of teachers leave the profession before they reach 20 years of service.

On the other hand, teachers who remain in the profession for 30 years or more receive pensions that are extraordinarily generous by comparison with those obtained by private-sector employees whose cash salaries are comparable.

The fact that most teachers do not spend the vast majority of their working years in education, despite the fact that teacher union officials have used their “exclusive” bargaining clout to establish a pension system that gives teachers a financial incentive to work in K-12 schools for three decades or more, strongly suggests that generous pensions are not greatly valued by teachers.  To attract and retain the best teachers, states and school districts would be well advised to allocate a higher share of teacher compensation to salaries, especially the salaries earned by teachers during their first decade or two on the job.

At least in Right to Work states, when union officials steer teacher compensation out of salaries for relatively inexperienced educators and into pension funds from which most teachers will never benefit much, the teachers who are hurt can protest by refusing to join or pay dues or fees to the union.  In forced-unionism states, however, younger teachers who don’t intend to teach until they retire and older teachers who didn’t enter the profession until they were in their forties have to bankroll the same union that is hurting them.