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Commission Explores Method to Shrink State's Unfunded Pension Liability
CEA Retirement Specialist Robyn Kaplan-Cho is serving on the state's Pension Sustainability Commission to represent teachers.
August 17, 2018
The state's unfunded pension liability will surely be discussed at length this election season, but a state commission created by the legislature is already at work this summer exploring ways to address the problem.
The Connecticut Pension Sustainability Commission is charged with studying "the feasibility of placing state capital assets in a trust and maximizing those assets for the sole benefit of the state pension system."
CEA Retirement Specialist Robyn Kaplan-Cho serves on the commission, representing teachers. "Placing a state asset, such as the Connecticut lottery, into the Teachers' Retirement Fund would dramatically reduce the state's unfunded liability. That would allow the state to reduce its yearly payment into the fund since there would be less unfunded liability to pay off," she says.
Jim Millstein told commission members that transferring a state asset to the pension system would relieve some pressure on the state budget. (Click image for larger version)
Jim Millstein of Millstein & Co., a financial services firm, told the commission that this approach would relieve some pressure on state budgets going forward, making it easier for elected officials to balance the budget. "It would also give credit rating agencies greater confidence that the state is getting its act together," he said.
He said that transferring an asset such as the state lottery to the pension system would improve the state's credit rating and ultimately lower borrowing costs.
Federal officials recognize that many states are facing a pension funding crises, Milstein added, and the idea of facilitating the transfer of state assets to pension plans is gaining traction. "I can tell you that every state in the union is now looking at this approach," he said.
CEA has taken a lead in promoting a transfer of state assets such as the lottery to shore up the Teachers' Retirement Fund. Last winter CEA Executive Director Donald Williams told the legislature's Public Safety and Security Committee, "If structured correctly, this would utilize a public asset for a public purpose, significantly pay down the state's unfunded pension liability, and correspondingly reduce the state's yearly financial obligation."
While a transfer of state assets to the pension system, if done properly, would serve the state well, there are those who seek to broaden the charge of the Pension Sustainability Commission, recommending increased retirement contributions for teachers, cuts to benefits, and other problematic proposals.
Kaplan-Cho says, "Teachers need to stand strong together, ready to fight back should any of these proposals gain traction. Legislators listen to their teacher constituents, especially when we speak with a united voice."
There are those, including current U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who argue that spending more on public education doesn't lead to better outcomes. School finance expert and Rutgers Professor Bruce Baker begs to differ, and he has research to back his position up.
Teachers are a selfless group who choose their profession because of a love for children and teaching, not for any expectation of accolades or honors. And that makes those times teachers are recognized and have a chance to be in the spotlight all the more special.
Once again, the Connecticut Education Foundation's Board of Directors invites you to support the Children's Fund by joining Association members and CEA staff at the 25th Annual Hands Across the Green Golf Tournament on Monday, July 15.
Teachers have a lot to say on issues from their pensions to classroom safety this legislative session, which is why local associations around Connecticut are meeting with their legislators and making their voices heard.
Speaking to hundreds of students at Harding High School in Bridgeport today, Governor Ned Lamont encouraged his audience to pursue a career in teaching and be role models for the next generation of students.
Wearing #RedForEd T-shirts, several hundred Waterbury teachers showed their strength as a union, their dedication to their profession, and their value to the community they serve when they packed a March 7 Waterbury Board of Education meeting.
Community schools, minority teacher recruitment and retention, the opportunity gap, and school literacy were just some of the issues members of the legislature's Education Committee heard public input.
"Our students would only benefit from having more opportunities to learn about the culture, struggles, and contributions of African-Americans and Latinos throughout history," Waterbury teacher Sean Mosley told the legislature's Education Committee
"Teachers become teachers because we want to help kids," says Danbury building rep Lori Woodruff. "It's the same with our union—we are here to help each other. As teachers, when we're involved with the union we can do more to help one another."
Connecticut Education Foundation's (CEF) second annual Read Across America Reading Bus Tour kicked off on February 25, featuring a customized blue bus decorated with well-known Dr. Seuss characters and outfitted with bookshelves, benches, carpeting, and hundreds of new books.
At a public hearing of the legislature's Education Committee today, classroom teachers—along with CEA leaders and staff—gave powerful testimony urging lawmakers to address the crisis of violent student behavior in rural, urban, and suburban schools throughout the state.
Teachers, CEA leaders, and staff testified before the Connecticut General Assembly's Black and Puerto Rican Caucus on issues critical to teachers this legislative session. These issues included school climate, classroom safety, the persistent shortage of ethnic minority educators, and funding for public schools.
CEA supports sensible ways of assisting the state in its efforts to make up for decades of underfunding teachers' retirement, including the governor and treasurer's plan to smooth out the state's payments to the fund over a longer period of time and lower the investment earning assumption to a more realistic rate.
"We reject the idea of cutting our way to prosperity. That has never worked," said Connecticut AFL-CIO President Sal Luciano. His remarks came at a press conference yesterday where members of the labor community, including CEA, called on the state to adopt a pro-growth, investment budget.
Project Oceanology and New England Science and Sailing are partnering to offer "Sound Education: Working with NGSS and STEM in Long Island Sound". This is a FREE two-day PD event from April 5 - April 6 for teachers in grades 4-12, with overnight accommodations provided in Project Oceanology's waterfront hostel.
Legislation passed late in 2015 made many "tax extenders" semi-permanent, but there are still a few esoteric items that keep everyone on tenterhooks when, as once again this year, Congress fails to pass the tax bill by the end of the year.
Marks the inauguration of a new governor and the beginning of the 2019 session of the Connecticut General Assembly. It's likely to be a busy session with many issues for legislators to tackle over these next five months.