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No One Benefits: How Teacher Pension Systems Are Failing Both Teachers And Taxpayers

December 17, 2012 11:52 AM

Comprehensive report on state teacher pension policies finds few signs of reform. pension_cycle_NCTQ

Teacher pension systems in the United States are $390 billion in debt. State funding shortfalls, unfair eligibility rules, escalating contribution levels, and other requirements are costly for teachers and taxpayers. Systemic reform is needed to cure this crisis.

Under a grant from the Joyce Foundation, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) surveyed the health of pension systems in each of the 50 states. The Council’s report, No One Benefits: How Teacher Pension Systems Are Failing Both Teachers and Taxpayers, connects the dots among a number of complicated teacher pension policies and makes a forward-looking case for reform. The report is written in an accessible way, provides details of what’s working in several states, and focuses squarely on how this issue impacts teachers’ compensation and the quality of the teaching workforce.

The report recommends that states take action to secure the financial health of teacher pensions—for the sake of teachers, taxpayers and students alike. Systemic reform of teacher pensions requires states to make tough decisions that are right for the long term, including:

  • Flexible and portable teacher pension plan options;
  • Responsible financing of pension systems to ensure that they are sustainable, without excessive unfunded liabilities of an inappropriately long timeline required to pay off such liabilities; and
  • Fair and transparent pension formulas where each year of work accrues pension wealth in a uniform way.

The Joyce Foundation supports research and policy development to help transform the teaching career to make it more attractive to promising teachers, and to ensure teachers get clear guidance on how to improve. The Education Program also funds research on job protections and pensions in other sectors, and development of policies to reform tenure, teacher compensation, and retirement options.

The NCTQ advocates for reforms in a broad range of teacher policies at the federal, state and local levels in order to increase the number of effective teachers. In particular, NCTQ recognizes the absence of much of the evidence necessary to make a compelling case for change and seeks to fill that void with a research agenda that has direct and practical implications for policy. Its Board of Directors and Advisory Board are composed of Democrats, Republicans and Independents, all of whom believe that the teaching profession is way overdue for significant reform in how we recruit, prepare, retain and compensate teachers.

Learn More
Download: NCTQ press release
Wall Street Journal: States Faulted Over Teacher Pension Shortfall
The Quick and the Ed Blog: In Teacher Pensions Even the Fixes Are Moving in the Wrong Direction
Time: How Bad Is America’s Pension Funding Problem?


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