Teacher Retirement Systems: A Ranking of the States

Max Marchitello, Andrew J. Rotherham, & Juliet Squire
Publication Date: 


"One of the fundamental beliefs underlying Bellwether’s analysis is that teacher pension plans serve some teachers very well, but they don’t serve most teachers well. In particular, they reward long-serving teachers who stay in the same state. But they don’t offer as much to people who teach for shorter timelines or people who teach for a long time but move across state lines, like, for instance, the spouses of people in the military." - Money Magazine

Teacher retirement plans are called “gold plated” by their proponents and critics alike, when in fact half of teachers will never see a pension at all. Only about one in five teachers gets a full pension. And in many cases retirement benefits shortchange teachers and make it harder for them to save for their retirement

In Teacher Retirement Systems: A Ranking of the States, Bellwether Education Partners ranks how state retirement systems serve U.S. teachers and taxpayers:


Retirement programs don’t serve all teachers equitably. For teachers who work in the classroom for fewer than 10 years, 34 states receive an “F” for how well retirement plans prepare them for retirement. For teachers who work in the classroom for more than 10 years, but do not stay until retirement age, 23 states receive an “F” ranking.

The pension debate is too often about pensions versus 401(k)-style plans or whether the ideal educator is a 30-year veteran or a teacher with five years of classroom experience. This obscures just how poorly retirement systems are serving most teachers and the variety of ways policymakers can do better. It’s time to focus on an equitable retirement solution that benefits all of America’s teachers. 

  • Download Teacher Retirement Systems: A Ranking of the States
  • Read Money Magazine’s take on the state of teacher retirement systems.
  • Register for the Education Writers Association’s webinar on teacher retirement programs.

Read more about Bellwether’s teacher pension work: