OUR VIEWS: Teacher pensions broken

Jun 1, 2012


Both school districts have recently been named among the top schools in the nation by both U.S. News and World Report and Newsweek. This is made possible by having top-notch staffing dedicated to the cause of educating children.

It’s unfortunate that the system put into place to help fund teachers’ retirements is receiving a failing grade.

Senate Republicans recently voted to do away with pensions for new teachers and other school workers hired in 2013 and beyond. House Republicans are not in favor of this plan and are working on alternative solutions.

Would such drastic measures jeopardize schools? Would potential teachers choose another career path? Would stellar teachers leave the field? If that is the case, ultimately we all lose due to an unskilled labor market.

A quality education leads to a skilled workforce, which is necessary for economic development and higher quality of life.

That being said, it’s clear that the current retirement system for teachers is broken and must be fixed.

An early lesson in life is that you must live within your means, and that practice clearly doesn’t exist today. Legislators and public school officials must make some tough decisions, just like many in the private sector have made.

The instances of 100 percent company-funded pensions and health care are well behind us, and the public sector needs to follow suit.

Hopefully, those who choose a career for the love of educating children will continue to do so, and those who aren’t as dedicated will move on. Maybe they’ll work to find a solution to Social Security for the rest of us.

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Kevin Collier and Liz Stuck. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to news@grandhaventribune.com or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.



Yes!! Amen to that!!


Oh boo hoo. I've always heard the 3 best reasons for being a teacher is, June, July, and August. They have been pampered and spoiled enough. You'd swear they were an endangered species for the love of God. Do you think for a minute they would take a wage cut or benefit cut? Think again. They should have to teach year around and there should be year around school. They always carry that card up their sleeves; I Got Tenure. Sorry but that falls on my deaf ears when I hear that.


There is a lot of misinformation being thrown out.


Misinformation???? Why is it misinformation about teachers getting the summer off? I know plenty of them, and they all get the majority of the summer off. Yes some have workshops or courses to take, most voluntarily, or only a few days out of the summer. The misinformation is that they cry they don't get a full-time salary. What I mean by that is they get/make as much for their 9 months of work, that a person working all year long gets. That is a full-time salary folks, not too mention they get medical coverage year round. How about we do this, do away with tenure, pensions and salaries, and make them collect unemployment during their times off if they don't get paid for having times off. I never got my salary and benefits while not working. Also tenure has and can be given from day one of their employment with the district. I know of teachers that have gotten it day one with GH.


There is a little something known as the Teacher Tenure Act. It REQUIRES FIVE years of probation before tenure can be attained. IF a teacher has already completed that in another district, the new district has the OPTION of granted immediate tenure. Generally though, teachers have to serve 2 years on probation when they switch schools.

Also your philosophy on teacher compensation is unbelievable. Your comparison is the typical ignorant perception on teachers. I have earned a master's degree in college. A position such as teaching requires such a degree (yes I know you can do it with a bachelors however I have been teaching long enough to have a masters) and generally positions that require a college degree include a salary, benefits, and some form of retirement. I do receive benefits year round for a contract that extends from on average Sept 1-June 15. However, my salary scale is paid solely on that time.

I guess if we go on your philosophy, no one should have a salary or a retirement. I don't really care about tenure because quite frankly I do think that ineffective teachers should be removed from the classroom. I just really struggle with the fact that in every evaluation, my administrators ( I have worked under multiple) have all deemed my teaching as effective or highly effective and my parent feedback has always been positive, yet you view my profession as something that is worthless. It is sad and I do get frustrated with mindsets like yours. I don't sit here and criticize your profession because one, I have no clue what you do and two, there will always be bad eggs in a profession, there will always be improvements that can be made in a job, but yet people feel this entitlement to come down on teachers because of unions and pensions. There is a lot to it and I truly wish more people would experience it before talking. Examples that people like you use are true of about 1% of teachers. Please just make sure you know what you are talking about before blasting teachers.


Rooster...it's cool that you have an opinion. Everyone has a right to an opinion. But you embarrass yourself when you don't have a basic grasp of the facts at hand. You apparently have no clue about the recent cuts in benefits that teachers have incurred. And you might want to do a bit of fact checking on the June, July and August off myth. Don't embarrass yourself.


HavenWillie on the contrary YOU are the embarrassment here. Obviously you do not have a clue as to what you are talking about here. Have you ever worked in a school system? Obviously not. Think before you speak. It is YOU who needs to do some more research. I know they have taken some cuts but they could stand to take some more cuts. Oh by the way, have a nice day.

Walk the Talk

@the jealous ones:
It's now June 11 and many teachers are still working, despite students being out of school on Friday. Friday was the last day that those teachers get paid until the first day back with students. Most teachers will be rewriting curriculum, planning and prepping classrooms during the summer, but especially in August. On Sunday, I spent the day on the beach....grading final exams. Romantic slacking. I'll be working in and out of school most of the summer. So the "June, July, and August" statement is cute, but misinformed. Teachers are NOT paid from the last day with students in mid June until the first day back with students in September. Teachers receive NO PAID vacations, unlike you probably do. The grass is always greener on the other side.


I am a teacher and I do enjoy the summers off. I do take a lot of that time to make myself better, my classroom better, or my curriculum better. I also understand people being frustrated about our time off. I try to never call my friends that are working and talk about "my summer."

My curiousity though: How come the private sector and people that work in the private sector don't fight their tails off to get a better pension? Why do we challenge the people with strong retirement plans? I know in my classroom (Special Education) I try and make sure we try and bring everyone up to a standard, expectation, success and not bring everyone down to a lower point.

I could be wrong, so no need to lambaste me or be rude, I am just curious. I still pay taxes. I feel like I work hard. My students tend to be successful. I would be very happy if everyone could have a great pension, but everytime I say that I am called a socialist. But if I said no one should have a pension unless they make enough money to have a pension then I would be titled something else.

Do people still work at companies that have "matching" 401(k) or is that obsolete?

AND, one more question, how come people don't try and take retirement away from military personnel? Aren't they being paid by the government? Or is that un-American?


Garth......I appreciate your comments, finally a teacher making sense. You need to be compensated well if you are a special education teacher. You have your work cut out for you everyday, no two days are same for you. As far as pensions in the private sector, those are gone by the wayside. Typically there is no union fighting to keep them. In this free enterprise world, companies can do what ever they feel like doing with their employees benefits. You can't fight for anything, otherwise you will be shown the door and they hire someone else that will do it for cheaper (yes there are folks out there waiting to take jobs away frim people for less, just to have a job). Most have no tenure and union backing. Also some companies have done away with their 401k matches during these hard economic times. Those companies are starting to bring back the match with the upturn in the economy. As you will notice with the recent elections in WI and CA, pensions for public employees will soon be a thing of the past. I stand by my comment, that will bring a huge swing in applicants for those jobs. Now for the military, those folks (if they serve a career) deserve their retirements. They are put in harms way for most of their careers, don't make a ton of money during their career, spend HUGE amounts of time away from their families. Yes some of cush jobs and never see a day of harm during their time they serve. Most of those are the officers that have spent time in college either before or during their career. The enlisted folks don't have it very easy for the first part of their careers at all. Some don't have it easy during their whole careers one bit. There are a lot folks that spend most of their 20+ years deployed away from their families, and if lucky get to see them maybe once a year. They are not going to air conditioned building everyday, going home to see their kids and sleep in their own beds at night. They get to sleep in a tent in 100+ weather for most of their time deployed, and then if they don't come home in a box, they get to come over for a few months and then right back to the desert. Then when/if they do come home for good, they have to deal with their everyday life back in the states. And that is not easy for some. I am not thinking you are comparing a soldier to a teacher, but the two lines of work do not even come close to being the same. Thanks again for your honest post, unlike some that think they are entitled to their big checks, tenure and pensions.


Ummm....His point (that you apparently missed) was that other jobs deserved pensions too. Actually his point I try and make sure we try and bring everyone up to a standard, expectation, success and not bring everyone down to a lower point is the counter-argument to your point. He is saying the exact opposite of what you are saying.


That might be the case they (not sure if they are he or she), wants everyone to have a pension. That is never going to happen, and the people that have pensions now, will not have them soon. As I said look at recent votes in CA, WI and what they are doing in MI.


Thank you Captain Obvious. In Michigan, state employees no longer get pensions. You are a step behind.


Hello Friends - just reading the incredible exchange here proves the point that something is seriously wrong with how teacher comp and schedules are determined. With such strong feelings being conveyed, there is clearly a large gap between those who support, and those who oppose. It is amazing to me that people would resort to personal attacks (Jaques) when they read something that irritates them. Have some control, people! I know a lot of wonderful teachers, and I am thankful for all that they do for our kids. I also believe that teacher schedules, compensation, and pensions are far and away outside of what the typical private sector person enjoys. The reality here is that public employees are generally enjoying better benefits than private employees doing similar work. I can accept that. Where I am challenged is that it truly is well beyond a modest difference. Let's bring it into line, and get along! Finally, I see many of the same characters on here doing their best to irritate others - it's what they do - clearly, they have nothing better to do with their lives than instigate.


They sure pay those administrators enough. How come nobody is balking about that? How about the hundreds of Automotive Industry Vice Presidents making over 10 million a year. Thats about $100 for the amount of time spent drinking at the drinking fountain.


I think we should fight to get 5 week vacations mandated for every factory and service worker. 12 week vacations for everyone over 40. Thats what the workers in the private sector are envious about. Working over 50 hours a week with no say in the matters. Well someone better get smart - research language for a November ballot proposal to mandate what I have written above. Make it bullet proof so it will stand up in court. Take care of all ambiguity. If everyone wants to want the choice to have a season off - Then lets get it on the ballot OOOH RA!!!



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