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It's the widening gap spooking statehouses across the country—the more than $1 trillion difference between what states have promised for public employee pensions and what they have actually set aside. In most states, these unfunded obligations exceed thousands of dollars for each resident. But this pension crisis is also an education crisis: the design of many state pension systems can actually prevent states from recruiting, retaining, and adequately compensating the high-quality teachers and principals that are critical to their educational and economic success. And, most pension systems are far from being equitable.
Education Sector recently weighed in on pension reform in Rhode Island, where legislators passed important legislation last fall to fix their financial mess. But policymakers across the country will be grappling with these issues in due course. Knowing this, how can policymakers address the pension crisis in smart ways that also advance ambitious and essential educational goals? In a new guide, designed specifically for legislators, we break down the key elements of pension reform and what any policymaker should know heading into the 2012 legislative season.
Although the guide is designed for legislators, everyone interested in education reform needs to have at least some familiarity with the subject of pensions. If this issue is going to be top of mind with legislators (and it is), then it's important to understand that pension reform can also be a way of addressing issues of teacher quality.
The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation provided funding for this brief. The findings and conclusions are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the foundation.
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