Teacher Pensions Blog

We know that traditional pension plans can push veteran teachers out of the classroom. But could pension reform draw them back in?

Survey responses released through a Learning Policy Institute analysis of National Center for Education Statistics data,  “Solving the Teacher Shortage,” suggest teachers who left the classroom consider the ability to maintain their retirement benefits very or extremely important in their decision to return. So important, in fact, that pensions rank as a bigger obstacle than salary, class sizes, and child care availability. Here’s the breakdown:

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The vast majority of teacher pension plans financially incentivize retiring at a set age, often around 60, regardless of an individual teacher’s situation. Inevitably, there are some effective veteran teachers who must then choose between continuing their work in the classroom and literally losing money. The survey respondents seem to capture a piece of this dilemma — teachers who have left the profession but would consider returning, should their retirement benefits allow them to do so.

We’ve discussed this before, but the push and pull on veteran teachers also has an effect on students. Findings suggest that if experienced educators did not face the pressure of a backloaded retirement system with large peaks and valley, but were instead offered a smooth, steady benefit accrual, more teachers would stay in the classroom for longer. This would increase teacher experience levels, and lead to better outcomes for students.