Editor of the Reformer:
(State treasurer) Beth Pearce’s proposal to decimate Vermont’s teacher retirement pension is unethical and short-sighted. The pension isn’t a gift from the government; it’s from funds built by teacher contributions over the years. Five to 6 percent of a teacher’s salary is redirected to the pension fund: it is a non-negotiable contribution. Radically changing the terms of the deal is unconscionable.
Governor Scott often speaks of the need to attract young families to Vermont. Strong public schools are a critical component of that goal. It is already difficult to hire qualified teachers in this state. Jay Nichols, the executive director of the Vermont Principals Association, told VTDigger, “We’re seeing less and less people going into the education field ... It’s harder to get teachers.”
Offering teachers even less is clearly a poor way to mitigate the problem. The pension has close to 50,000 beneficiaries who will be negatively affected by this. Pearce herself has acknowledged the false economy of diminishing the pension: “Any talk of cutting benefits is really just shooting yourself in the foot. Retirees buy goods and services, too ... Reliable and adequate income in retirement is important to Vermont’s economic prosperity.” (Vermont-NEA Today, October, 2015).
I’ve taught in Vermont schools since 1986 and have loved the challenge and gratification that comes with the work. Though I never got wealthy, I was secure in believing my pension would provide adequately for my retirement. If the state backs out of its promise to teachers, it will be a real betrayal.
Montpelier, Jan. 18