Legislation may concern teachers

Forum Editor and Forum Editor

Teachers are living longer, working longer and receiving retirement pensions longer, but those benefits might be close to running out.

The State Teachers Retirement System manages a fund enrolled teachers pay into in order to receive benefits when they retire.

Because there are more teachers receiving benefits than there are teachers contributing, the fund, which has been around since 1920, is slowly depleting. STRS of Ohio is looking to implement several changes to the way teachers retire and what benefits they receive.

“We are a very mature system and we have a lot of people who collect,” said Nick Treneff, communications director for STRS Ohio. “We needed to make some changes.”

Possible changes include increasing the age teachers become eligible for retirement, how much service they must complete and the amount they must contribute to receive benefits. If passed by Ohio Congress, these changes will affect all teachers within the state of Ohio, including those employed by the University.

STRS is working to get the changes made at the state level in Ohio.

In May 2012, the Ohio Senate passed retirement reform legislation, which outlines these changes and more. The fate of the legislation depends on the Ohio House of Representatives’ decision.

Age of retirement eligibility and amount for service requirements will increase and will depend on how long each individual has worked.

Working longer to receive benefits may not be a big deal for some teachers, as teachers typically work longer than those in other professions, said Roger Anderson, secretary of the Ohio Higher Education Retirees Association and former University professor.

Most teachers enjoy their jobs and stay within the same school throughout their entire career, he said.

Some teachers also have longer careers.

“Statistics show that teachers tend to take care of themselves better because of the nature of their job,” he said.

Teachers teach others to be nurturing and apply that same idea to themselves, he said.

Anderson is living proof of having a long career, as even though he officially retired from the University in 1998 after teaching political science since September 1967 he is still active within the University.

Some might not agree with the changes as it will require members to pay an increased contribution every month.

“We know everybody won’t be happy with the changes, but it’s for the long-term sustainability of the fund,” Trenoff said.

The STRS has worked with several retiree coalitiions since 2009 who are in favor of the reform, he said.

At the University, some teachers considered early retirement due to the possible changes, said Rebecca Ferguson, University chief human resources officer.

“They’re doing things to stabilize the system so in the long-term, [retirees] don’t have to worry,” Ferguson said. “Our systems are very healthy, but if we don’t take some action now, years from now [the system] will be less healthy.”

Some faculty members may wish to retire before 2013, when the first scheduled changes are set to begin if the House approves, she said.

“We have some faculty members who have been here for over 40 years,” she said. “From a student perspective, some of their favorite faculty members may be choosing to depart.”

After the changes are implemented, the system will save around $11 billion, Trenoff said.

“It’s a significant amount and we give us more solid financial footing,” he said. “Teachers live a long time in retirement, which is great, but that puts a lot on the system to make those promised payments.”