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. Teachers have consistently paid their fair share into the fund—while the state has not—and teachers had their payments increase nearly 20 percent last year.
However, we oppose any teacher retirement cost shift that transfers millions in costs from the state to our cities and towns, putting additional financial strain on taxpayers and pressure on already tight school budgets. The plan to shift the cost of teacher retirement contributions onto our cities and towns didn’t sit well with Connecticut taxpayers, legislators, and municipalities in 2017—because it placed additional financial burdens on cities and towns and property owners—and it doesn’t sit well with them today.
If the state’s priority is to recruit more teachers for our toughest school districts and more minority teachers, penalizing districts for paying teachers a fair wage is not the way to go. As strikes across the country have shown us, teacher salaries are not excessive and compensation plays a key role in recruitment and retention. Teachers earn 19% less than similarly skilled and educated professionals, forcing many to take second and third jobs to support themselves and their families. Many teachers, including those in the governor’s hometown of Greenwich, can’t afford to live in the towns where they teach due to the high cost of living. Almost 20 percent of teachers leave the profession due to low pay and 50 percent of teachers leave the profession within the first five years of entering the classroom.
We recognize the challenges the governor and state legislators face in balancing the budget and we appreciate the governor’s willingness to continue discussing the issues. There are solutions to the state’s pension debt problem that do not require shifting the burden to local taxpayers. We intend to have conversations with the governor on this important issue and look forward to working with the administration and legislators to develop a responsible budget that manages future pension costs and keeps the state’s promise to teacher retirement without a cost shift to cities and towns, and ensures that Connecticut students have the best and brightest teachers in the classroom.