The Most Important Issue You’re Probably Not Thinking About

That’s the title I would have given to Andy Rotherham’s new TIME column.  The issue is teacher pensions, which are nestled in the uber-problem of public sector benefit liabilities.

If you’re not asleep after that last sentence, read all of Andy’s piece.  The transparent political problem is the taxpayer liability inherent in closing the gaps between what retiring teachers expect and what revenues can currently provide.  For me, though, the more important problem is the perverse incentives it creates for teachers and systems:

The way teacher pensions operate is badly suited to today’s teacher workforce … The current set-up penalizes teachers who move between states, switch to private or public charter schools that do not participate in the pension system or leave teaching altogether. Meanwhile, it becomes financial suicide for teachers to change careers after a certain point even if they no longer want to teach or are not good at it.

Not to mention, it makes it harder for professionals to BECOME teachers later in their careers.  The rigidity of the structure forces a singular career trajectory that just doesn’t jive with other labor markets.

Anyway, some folks are predicting a fiscal reckoning as the pension funds slide toward insolvency.  Who will emerge as the Nouriel Roubini of the education sector?  Looks like Andy is auditioning.

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