Republican leaders in the House and Senate today pushed ahead with plans to close the school employee retirement system to new hires despite reluctance from Gov. Rick Snyder and other GOP lawmakers over staggering cost estimates from the state’s own budget experts and independent studies.
Under identical bills (SB 401 and HB 4647) introduced in both chambers, the defined benefit pension system would be closed to school employees hired after Sept. 30, a scheme that various studies have shown will cost more than $20 billion over 30 years.
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The GOP leadership has called this attack on school employees a top priority of the legislative session and promised to move quickly once bills were introduced. Access our Action Network tools to call or email your legislators today.
The number of teachers leaving the profession is at an all-time high, and shortages in various subject areas and regions of the state already are reaching critical mass, MEA President Steven Cook said in a news release issued today.
“Continuing to attack the livelihood and retirement security of school employees will only make that problem worse,” Cook said.
We need to share our stories as educators, like former teacher Sam Schweihofer did in today’s news release. You can do the same – write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper relating your personal story, like this MEA member from West Bloomfield did recently. Get parents and community leaders involved – let them know this plan will only contribute to a growing teacher shortage in the state.
MEA has partnered with the Michigan Senate Democrats on a petition you can sign to show your opposition to these bills – sign today at protectmiretirement.com.
Educators don’t measure their worth by the size of their bank account, but they deserve a secure retirement after decades of public service, said Sen. Curtis Hertel (D-East Lansing), who issued a video statement in response to the bills.
“Instead of honoring their service and sacrifices, Republicans now want to take even more money out of their pockets and mortgage the future of those who worked hard to make Michigan succeed,” Hertel said.
Two separate studies were released in recent weeks that projected the costs of eliminating pensions for new school employees. Great Lakes Consulting, commissioned by the legislative news service MIRS, estimated the price tag at $20 billion over 30 years.
Anderson Economic Group, hired by the Michigan Association of School Administrators to conduct a study, found additional costs for school districts due to a similar change proposed in December would range from $223 million to $813 million annually by 2048.
Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) said it’s a mystery why Republicans continue to target educators, “who already do so much with so little for our kids.”
Ananich pointed out that changes were already made to the system in 2012 that placed new school employees into a “hybrid” system combining elements of both a traditional defined benefit pension and a 401(k)-style defined contribution plan. The hybrid system is fully funded.
“They’re taking a system that works and replacing it with a haphazard plan that will jeopardize current employees’ retirement and deter new educators from coming to Michigan,” Ananich said. “If we are going to say that Michigan’s young people deserve a world class education, we need to be willing to support the people who are going to make that happen.”
Republican leaders are targeting educators to appease Dick and Betsy DeVos at the expense of schools and children, the Michigan Democratic Party said in a statement released today.
“The hostile environment toward teachers that Republicans are dead-set on creating here hurts the dedicated educators working in our schools now, repels talented teachers from coming to Michigan in the future, and robs our children of the quality education they deserve.”
Sen. David Knezek (D-Dearborn Heights) called the proposed pension changes a “shameful commentary” about what’s happening in Michigan under Republican leadership.
“It’s pretty disgusting that we’ve got the state of Michigan recommending pay increases for the Governor and Lieutenant Governor while at the same time we’re talking about taking away pensions from our educators,” Knezek said.