Teachers Can Help With Impending Pension Funding Increase

With school districts facing as much as a sixfold jump in the amount they must pay for teacher pensions by 2012, teachers are very worried that school boards will have to cut programs and/or staff.

School districts and teacher unions are asking Harrisburg for a fix that will help cover the additional funding. Good luck with that. The state faces its own enormous pension payment increase and its finances are very shaky with looming huge deficits.

What to do? If teachers and their union leadership want to avoid program and staff cuts, they should offer to help. They should agree: (1) to accept a voluntarily salary freeze and (2) agree to pay more for health care. These actions would help to offset some of the impending huge pension payment increases.

Union leaders argue that school districts have been derelict by underpaying into the pension system. Maybe they should consider that the strident position taken by unions during bargaining, backed by the right to strike, have already stretched to the limit the ability of taxpayers to support schools. No group has fared better economically than Pennsylvania’s teachers during good times and bad. Virtually no layoffs, protection of underperformers, excessive, blind support by Harrisburg of the public school system, and lack of accountability are the real problems. Addressing those is the best place to start. In the meantime, let’s see if teachers are willing to offer school districts any help with the pension payment hike.