Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Retired educator defends public employee pensions

In what society must we defend the rights of retired public educators and other employees to their pensions?


Retiree Martha Serensits of Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina, had a great letter published in the Myrtle Beach Sun-News on Sunday, and it's well worth re-posting here, to give moral support to our own beleaguered retirees and close-to-retirees.

In response to an antagonist's text published on March 17 in the same paper, Serensits writes,

Mr. Litz, I am very sorry that your pension has remained the same for 20-some years. Perhaps if you had a union representing you, you might have had the opportunity to contribute to your pension fund and receive cost of living adjustments. You see, contrary to what you seem to believe, I contributed 7 percent of my gross salary to my retirement fund for 30 years. As a retired educator, this allowed me to receive 60 percent of the average of my top three years with unlimited cost of living adjustments. (By the way, last year that was calculated at minus-3.5 percent; consequently, we did not receive a cost of living raise and this year our increase is 1.24 percent) I also pay $600 a month for my health insurance.

My retirement is not a "gift" from the taxpayers of my state. Teachers in my state (as in most) were promised better benefits in exchange for accepting lower wages as public employees. (By the way, the retirement system to which I belong has not been an option for teachers in my district since 1980.)

Also contrary to the prevailing attitudes, teachers do not receive vacation pay, paid lunch hours, overtime, differential, etc. Teachers are paid for those exact days that they work (usually 185). That pay can either be spread over 10 months or 12 months. It is still only pay for 185 days of work. Teachers work, at school, a seven-hour day. This does not include nights and weekends doing lesson plans, grading papers and going to school themselves, as well as covering athletic events and extra curricular activities.

Teachers in our district (as in most) are required to continue their education, specifically to achieve a master's degree or its equivalent in five years or have their pay frozen. (Have you paid for college lately?) They must then continue their education in order to keep their certification current. Vertical movement on the pay scale is dependent on years worked and education.

It is truly amazing to me that the Fox News pundits can talk about bankers on Wall Street who created this economic mess and put us on the brink of a depression; how "critical" is it to retain the "brightest and the best" on Wall Street and how we have to pay them outrageous sums of money and must honor their contracts and yet, when it comes to dedicated teachers, many of whom have second (and sometimes third) jobs just to feed their families, they refer to them with disdain and speak of how they are on the "gravy train" and "fleecing" the public. Wonder if those Wall Street bankers ever thanked their teachers?

I thank mine, by God, all the time.

And thank you, Ms. Serensits.

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