This Week in Pensions

This Week in Pensions: April 12, 2024

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NPPC Highlights

Check out our latest blog, which delves into insights from NIRS’ recent report on how Rhode Island’s shift away from defined benefit pensions impacted the turnover trends within the state’s public workforce.

Addressing Maine’s Growing Teacher Shortage

Maine faces a serious issue–a shortage of teachers in several critical subjects. The Maine Department of Education has identified key areas, such as health, special education, computer science, and others, where the shortage is expected to be particularly severe. Emergency hiring rules are being considered to fill these vacancies, allowing individuals without teaching licenses to step in, provided they meet specific qualifications.

However, emergency hires are only a temporary fix to a deeper issue. Low compensation – when factoring in both wages and benefits – remains the primary deterrent in attracting and retaining teachers. With a starting salary of $40,000, Maine lags behind neighboring states and needs to provide a living wage for educators. Evelyn Atwood, an elementary school teacher in Lewiston, pointed out that many of her colleagues have been forced to take on more work to boost their income or work jobs offering higher pay in neighboring states and counties. “I have so many colleagues working second, third jobs just to make ends meet because they are not being paid enough to live on,” Atwood said.

Advocacy efforts are underway to address these challenges. The Maine Education Association is urging lawmakers to take legislative action to raise the minimum salary for teachers to $50,000 by the 2027-28 school year. Alongside this, there are calls to increase the wages of education technicians and other support staff to recognize their crucial role within the education system. The Maine Department of Education has partnered with organizations like Educate Maine to invest in recruitment and retention initiatives to foster a thriving educator workforce in the state. Despite these efforts, as many as 1,500 job openings are reported across Maine, indicating that much work still needs to be done.

To address the underlying reasons for Maine’s teacher shortage, the state must prioritize competitive compensation and comprehensive support to educators. Senator Teresa Pierce highlights that investing in the teaching profession is important for ensuring quality education for students, securing the state’s economic future, and encouraging the next generation to take up teaching.

One crucial strategy for incentivizing workers to join Maine’s workforce could be specifically advertising the benefits of being a public employee, such as pension benefits. According to the NEA, “Pensions successfully attract people to education as a profession.” By valuing and appropriately compensating teachers and including pension benefits in recruiting messages, Maine can create a sustainable future for its schools and communities, ensuring every student receives the quality education they deserve.

Addressing Pennsylvania’s Teacher Shortage: Students and Advocates Urge Legislative Action

In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, students and educators are raising their voices to confront the state’s pressing teacher shortage. With over 8,800 teaching positions left unfilled or temporarily filled this year, the urgency for a solution is evident.

Jaclyn Ohl, a Commonwealth University in Bloomsburg senior, highlights the financial challenges faced during student teaching, where full-time unpaid roles clash with the need to sustain oneself. Ohl and her peers advocate for state funding of student-teacher stipends, proposing a $10,000 support that could alleviate financial strain.

The impact of the teacher shortage is felt most acutely in schools with predominantly minority populations, where over half of the vacancies exist. To address this disparity, the Pennsylvania Department of Education aims to enhance diversity in the teaching workforce with a $10 million investment in the Talent Recruitment Account. 

As Pennsylvania explores avenues to attract a more diverse pool of teachers to address these vacancies, leveraging the appeal of pension benefits could prove instrumental. Public pensions have historically served as income equalizers, providing stability and security for all educators– enhancing the attractiveness of teaching as a career choice. By highlighting these benefits alongside other compensatory solutions, the state can broaden its talent pool and foster a more inclusive and impactful educational environment for all students.

Rhode Island Tackles Teacher Shortage with New Legislation

Lawmakers in Rhode Island are taking decisive action to combat the state’s teacher shortage. A proposed bill, currently under consideration, offers innovative solutions to address this pressing issue.

The legislation, approved by the House of Representatives, proposes implementing emergency preliminary certification. This initiative would enable individuals obtaining their teacher certifications to begin teaching sooner, providing much-needed relief to schools facing vacancies. This comes on the heels of a new report from the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS), which sheds light on public sector turnover trends in Rhode Island.

Under the proposed legislative framework, individuals granted emergency preliminary certification could initially teach for one school year, with the option to renew annually for up to four additional school years. This temporary measure seeks to alleviate the immediate strain on Rhode Island’s education system while longer-term solutions are developed.

Be sure to check back next Friday for the latest in the fight for a secure retirement! For now, sign up for NPPC News Clips to receive daily pension news from across the country directly to your inbox.