Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Double-dipping into the troubled Teachers Pension Fund

On March 9, 2006, Betty Sternberg, Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Education issued circular letter C-10 to Superintendents and Principals for posting to teachers and administrators. It lists the "shortage areas" that become eligible for special incentive programs to alleviate these shortages.

In a section of text called "Rehiring of Retired Teachers", school districts may rehire retired personnel in the shortage categories without penalty to their retirement benefits. In other words, if a retired individual desires to return to teaching or whatever because a school district is in need can do so without penalty.

The unintended consequence of this incentive program has taken a sinister turn. Instead of enticing shortage area teachers and administrators out of retirement, it is tempting individuals close to retirement to petition for nod and wink deals allowing them to retire early, receive their salary AND retirement benefit, AND exascerbate the shortage that the State has identified.

Shockingly, a number of Connecticut school boards have already participated in this giveaway.

The damage is obvious and not so obvious. The Teacher Pension Funds in Connecticut are already grossly underfunded. This double-dipping scheme could add another half-billion or more to that deficit if every district pretends it's all alright. I think the taxpayers will then have good reason to revolt against further funding until amends are made.

Furthermore, it erodes public confidence in the education system which is already seeing its approval ratings drop. It will hurt school budget votes and hurt everyone who is not a short-timer in the system.

Aside from calling a moritorium on the program, the program needs to be rewritten to ensure no early retirees are eligible. School Boards need to say NO until that time. Connecticut taxpayers cannot afford these kinds of mistakes.

Search for Section 8-265pp from the above link for more info. The Teachers Retirement Board can be reached at 860-241-8401 (Darlene Perez) or Sara.Ellsworth@ct.gov, 860-713-6872.

It's your money.

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