To watch the fight between the NJEA and Chris Christie, you would think the teachers are the cause of all our state’s ills. Now that the Governor may be proposing a plan that says if they retire before August 1, the teachers don’t have to pay anything toward their benefits:
“Some people say it would lead to a rash of retirements,” said Michael Drewniak, Christie’s spokesman. “That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It would free up a lot of possibilities for schools.”
Sure, not a bad thing that many of the experienced people responsible for educating our future leaders have a mass exodus, which is exactly what the teachers are saying will happen. They are saying as many as 30,000 teachers could retire and it may actually cost the state even more:
In a press release, NJEA President Barbara Keshishian said the flood of retirements could also strain the state’s anemic pension system.
Teachers contribute 5.5 percent of each paycheck to the pension fund but the state has for 15 years underfunded its share, Keshishian said.
“The average teacher retires at age 61,” said Keshishian. “It is estimated that for every year that a teacher retires sooner than she otherwise would, the cost to the pension system increases by 10 percent for her pension and benefits.” Veteran teachers are eligible to retire at 55; the age has recently been pushed to 60 for new hires.
And after underfunding its share for the last 15 years, the state is contributing nothing to the fund this year making the problem even worse. So the fight continues and the rhetoric heats up. Voters will head to the polls on Tuesday to have their say on school budgets and then we’ll see what the playing field really looks like.