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Letter to the Editor: Retirement age wouldn’t have much effect on teacher recruitment

State Senator Rogers Pope, the former superintendent of Livingston Parish schools, is a strong long-time advocate for education. So is Senator Ed Price of Gonzales, like me a former school board member and president of the Louisiana School Boards Association. But their opposition to a bill toughening teacher retirement rules disappoints me.

The bill would have raised the age when the future teachers and state employees could retire with full benefits by five years, from 62 to 67.

Its sponsor, Barrow Peacock of Shreveport, says it would help stabilize state retirement systems and the savings could be used later for teacher raises. It would also help bring both severely-underfunded retirement systems back into balance.

No current teacher or state employee would be affected; only future hires. Current teachers and bureaucrats would be grandfathered in. But Senators Pope and Price think that, in itself, is worth a thumbs-down. “We are talking about a piece of legislation that wouldn’t bring one dollar to the state for 30 something years.” In fact, Mr. Pope says, it would make it harder to recruit new teachers.

But a large share of teachers never make it to retirement.

Louisiana is infamously low in teacher pay and infamously bad at giving teachers the support they need to withstand the built-in pressure and do their jobs. A study done over 20 years ago by a professor at University of Louisiana (now ULL) showed that a large percentage of new teachers left the profession entirely before their fifth year.

I still have a copy; I used it several times to lobby in Baton Rouge and in Washington.

I don’t think extending retirement-age requirements would have much effect at all on either recruiting or retention. Which, of course, didn’t matter. The bill was shot down in committee.

 

Russ Wise

Former St. John School Board member

Former president, Louisiana School Boards Association