Not a Burden on the Taxpayer

17 May

I taught in the public schools in California from 1975 – 2005 and contributed eight percent of my monthly gross pay into The California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS). In addition, the school district where I taught matched my contributions. I also invested (rolled over) more than $100,000 from an IRA into CalSTRS to increase how much I would earn by about 9% annually.

Although critics of public education and teacher unions claim teacher retirement in California is a burden for taxpayers that is an outright lie.

CalSTRS is funded by the employees (working teachers), the teacher’s employer—school district, community college district, participating charter school or county office of education. The state of California currently contributes 2.541 percent of the annual earnings of all members—this is an insignificant burden on taxpayers.

For example, the budget for the state of California for 2013 was $477.8 Billion. However, total state contributions for the State Teachers Retirement Plan (STRP) increased by $109.2 million or 9.2 percent to $1.3 billion as a result of additional state contributions due to the unfunded obligation—that is 0.272% (about one quarter of one percent) of the total-state budget.

The video looks back at significant points in California history while chronicling the evolution of CalSTRS from its beginnings as the Public School Teachers’ Retirement Salary Fund to its current position as the largest educator-only pension fund in the world. The video was produced internally by members of the CalSTRS Communications staff.

CalSTRS was founded on the principle that hard-earned retirement benefits recognize decades of classroom service—now and for generations to come.

What pensioners get: The median annual benefit for new CalSTRS retirees represents 60 percent of a member’s final compensation earned while still teaching—that means the average teacher takes a 40% cut in pay when he or she retires—as I did.

The average age of retirees is 62. CalSTRS members do not receive Social Security benefits—even if he or she qualifies—as I did, because I worked outside of education for more than a decade—and most retired teachers do not receive health benefits from their employers.

For example, when I retired at age 60 in 2005, I left teaching with no health benefits. If I had not served in the US Marines and fought in Vietnam, I would have had no health benefits from age 60 until I qualified for Medicare.  However, because of my military service, my health care provider became the VA soon after I left teaching. Most teachers are not that fortunate and are not qualified for VA health benefits.

Without question, CalSTRS, like pension funds worldwide, took a hit due to the 2007-08 global recession, but it is not bankrupt, nor will it bankrupt the state. CalSTRS has historically been a sound system, and until the market collapse had consistently met or exceeded its assumed rate of return. Even under current economic conditions, CalSTRS is about 70 percent funded and has sufficient assets and projected contributions to pay benefits until 2044.

CalSTRS ended 2012 with a market value of $150.61 Billion. The average age of members who retired in 2011-12 was 62 years with a median of 24.4 years of service and the average monthly member-only benefit was $3,936.

For example, if I live to see the year 2044, I would be age 98. How many people live that long? So, who is it that hates teachers so much they are willing to lie to mislead the public?

Discover Razor Wire“I was alone in my classroom the afternoon the boy’s father walked in unexpectedly. He cursed at me and accused me of incompetence, but I was the wrong teacher.”


Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition].

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

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