Pension reform will help cities balance budgets, but will their schools still be able to attract talented teachers?

Andrew J. Rotherham
Publication Date: 
July 6, 2012

Bad news for teachers and other public-sector employees: America is more than ready to cut your pensions and benefits. But voters need to understand the choices here as well. Unless cuts in public-sector benefits are coupled with improvements in working conditions and job satisfaction, there is a real risk that schools will not be able to attract the kind of people we want in classrooms. Good teachers don’t go into the profession for the money, but generous retirement benefits are hardly a disincentive either. And if we cut those benefits while continuing to treat teachers like DMV clerks — with lockstep pay schedules, little trust and few opportunities to take leadership roles or be entrepreneurial — it will become even harder to attract talented workers.

If we fail to pair public-sector fiscal reforms with efforts to make teaching a more attractive profession, then in the long run pension reform will end up being a lose-lose proposition. And not just for public-sector employees, but for us all.