Blog: Pension Politics

Wisconsin's controversial Act 10 legislation has had little long-term effect on the Wisconsin teacher workforce. One lesson: We should be careful to separate out any given policy's effects on teachers unions from its effects on teachers.
A new report finds that district spending on benefits has grown at a rate that far outpaces the district's overall spending on K-12. As a result, benefits take an increasingly large bite out of district education budgets.
How worried should we be about inequality among retirees?
Teacher pensions are complicated. Here is how teacher pensions are calculated.
Even with district wide salary schedules, women earn less than their male colleagues. Although there is no single explanation, in this piece I look at the impact of differences across grade levels.
Rather that fighting to preserve an expensive, unfair status quo, teachers should demand retirement plans worth fighting for.
In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, we think one of the ways states could thank teachers would be to make sure they all have secure, portable, sustainable retirement benefits. Unfortunately, too many teachers do not. To help illustrate why that’s not happening, consider six ways states make it harder for teachers to qualify for secure retirement benefits, as told through the lens of some of the most memorable, fictional teachers and educators.
Teacher pay and benefits have made headlines over the past few weeks, with walkouts and strikes by teachers in Kentucky, Oklahoma, and West Virginia. Indeed, with so much unfolding so quickly, it can be hard to keep up.
A recent Chicago Tonight article highlighted the top pension earners in the Illinois Teachers Retirement System. Only 18 of the top 100 are women, and the majority are white, male administrators.

As a part of its ongoing teacher diversity series, the Brown Center on Education Policy recently published a piece looking at different incentive structures districts use to attract people to the education profession. They found that some incentives are related with an increase in educator diversity. These findings are instructive and districts may want to consider them as a part of their teacher diversity efforts. That said, our research suggests that even once a person of color enters the education profession, she likely will still face significant barriers to advancement and higher salaries.

The Brown Center’s study relied on 2011-12 Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), which provides information on the context of public and private schools across the country. Among the race-neutral financial incentive policies they studied, they found that offering relocation assistance, loan forgiveness, and bonuses for excellence in teaching are associated with increased staff diversity. As such, they recommend districts interested in increasing racial diversity explore these racially-neutral financial incentive structures.

These findings are important in their own right. Nevertheless, diversifying the education workforce does not stop after recruitment. More must be done to address the fact that educators of color must contend with additional barriers once they enter the profession.

In our recent report we explored race-and gender-based salary gaps in Illinois. We found that women earn salaries that are on average $5,500 less than what men earn. As shown in the graph below, we also found significant gender-based pay gaps within races and ethnicities. Hispanic women, for example, earn on average $4,500 less in salaries than Hispanic men.