Blog: State Pension Plans

Inequities in teacher salaries across districts are exacerbated by teacher pensions. While it is true that teachers with higher salaries pay more into the pension fund, the additional pension wealth they receive far outweighs the greater contributions they made to the fund during their tenure.
In a new report we modeled the wealth accumulation for teachers in West Virginia's pension fund, before and after its reform, as well as the intervening DC plan. We found that all of the plans were poorly constructed from the outset and fail to provide a significant retirement benefit to a majority of West Virginia’s educators
Arizona’s teacher pension system is complex, expensive, and fails to produce an adequate retirement benefit for the majority of its teacher members.
Alaska’s 2005 teacher pension system reform legislation provides a unique opportunity to examine what happens when a state closes its teacher pension plan. We’ve collected pre and post reform data to examine teacher workforce impact in the wake of retirement plan changes. While it is important to note that these trends should not be interpreted as causal, we feel there are meaningful takeaways all the same.
A new study finds that teachers live the longest of all public employees. That's great news for them, but can come with increased costs for state pension systems.
On teacher pensions, there’s a chasm between what’s promised and the outcomes for the overwhelming majority of teachers. The commonly held notion of a teacher working 30-35 years and retiring with a gold plated pension is largely fiction.
Teachers in the Oakland Unified School District may go on strike soon. While they are primarily concerned with stagnant base salaries and class sizes, teachers in Oakland should also be concerned with rising benefit costs.
New York's teacher pension plan earns plaudits for its financial responsibility, but the way it accomplishes that has downsides as well.

Roughly 90 percent of all teachers are enrolled in a pension fund. However, each fund has its own rules and set of conditions that determine the overall value of a retired teacher's annual benefit. Interested in data on the average teacher pension in your state?  See the chart below for the latest data, updating an earlier post!  

The first column shows the “average pension” for newly retired teachers from the past ten years in each state. In the majority of states that don’t list the average benefit for newly retired members outright, these data are retrieved from states’ observations about retirees and beneficiaries added to the retirement plan’s rolls and about new benefit payments added to the rolls. These data are based on 2016 figures unless otherwise noted. Keep in mind that this method is not completely precise– these numbers also include beneficiaries added to the rolls because their spouses passed away, as well as potential increases in benefit payments due to inflation adjustments.

The next column shows, among all newly retired teachers, what the median retiree earns. The third column shows the average pension for all current retirees and beneficiaries. Finally, the last column show the estimated percentage of new teachers who will actually receive a pension. The data come from each state's annual comprehensive financial report.  

In Maryland, for example, the “average pension” for new teachers is $24,409. But the median pension for new retirees is just $16,404, meaning half of all new retirees earn less than that amount. Moreover, 57 percent of new Maryland teachers are expected to leave the system before qualifying for a pension.

 

 

Average Teacher Pension by State

State

Average Benefit for New Retirees

Median Benefit for New Retirees

Percentage of New Teachers Who QUALIFY FOR a Pension

Alabama

$22,335.81

$22,512.00

39

Alaska (DB plan)

$34,605.15

Teacher pension plans are inarguably complicated, so it's really no surprise that the most high traffic pieces published in 2018 were ones that shed light on a complex issue. Check them out below, plus one extra post highlighting our most asked question of all time.