The teacher-pension issue

September 27, 2005

Though it was only released a short time ago, Washington County school officials say they have already implemented some of the reforms sought by the education reform commission chaired by Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele.

But teacher pensions - the issue nearest and dearest to many teachers' hearts - will need action from the Maryland General Assembly.

How bad is the current system? The worst in the nation, according to the Maryland State Teachers Association.

That's a stance you might expect MSTA to take, but House Speaker Michael Busch endorsed that view in a Sunday interview on Maryland Public Television.

And in an interview printed Monday, Elizabeth Morgan, superintendent of schools for Washington County offered this quote:

"Pension, pension, pension. I think this next session of the legislature needs to seriously reform the pension system."

According to MSTA, the current teacher pension averages 38 percent of an educator's highest average annual salary.


MSTA's proposal would increase that average amount to 60 percent, depending on years of service and the start and ending dates of that service.

In a Sept. 6 meeting with MSTA and local teacher association presidents from around the state, Busch promised to make pension reform the No. 1 bill on the House's 2006 legislative calendar.

Washington County Teachers Association President Claude Sasse agreed that pensions are a problem, noting that retired Pennsylvania educators get an average of 74 percent of their highest salary in retirement, although they contribute more than Maryland teachers do.

Sasse said the Maryland system is a problem because it leads Pennsylvania teachers to join the Washington County system to gain experience. Then when they've gotten it, Sasse said, they leave, taking the training local taxpayers have funded with them.

All sides seem to agree the system needs improvement, but we haven't heard the details of any proposed bill. Until that appears, we can lament the problem, but can't endorse a proposal we haven't seen.

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