Over the weekend, the Columbus Dispatch ran a story that represents the proverbial icing on the Ohio teacher pension cake (for metaphor accuracy, the State Teacher Retirement System (STRS) is not just any old baked good; it's a calorie-laden mammoth that has grown so large it will bust the windows out of its own bakery-this, while the rest of the town is starving...). "Retired, Rehired: School Employees Can Get Paid Twice" points out the ludicrous amount of money that over a thousand employees statewide are earning, by collecting ample pensions and then rejoining the labor force. For example, the Dispatch estimates that a 58 year old personnel director in South-Western schools was rehired at $107,000 a year (after retiring in 2003) while collecting about $86,000 in retirement. Consider other shocking statistics:
- Last year, the STRS paid out more than $741 million in pensions to 15,857 faculty and staff still employed by school systems statewide;
- Almost 1,100 employees received an average pension payment last school year of $67,100, while earning anywhere from $70,000 to over $100,000;
- 299 of those were rehired at more than $100,000 a year, while collecting an average of $80,500 in pensions.
Last week in the????Ohio Education Gadfly, Mike and Terry blew the lid off STRS' attempt to get a bailout from tax payers.??
"Now taxpayers are about to be asked to bail out the STRS and protect its generous benefits and backfill market loses. The STRS, for example, wants its members and school districts to pay an extra 2.5 percent each - raising member contributions to 12.5 percent and school districts' to 16.5 percent."
Meeting this request would cost taxpayers at least $1 billion, despite the fact that many Ohioans "have seen their 401(k)s shrink by close to half in the last two years," and "have witnessed their property values collapse." Or how about the fact that, as Emmy points out, districts like South-Western are making drastic budget cuts, eliminating positions, and cancelling all extracurricular activities for middle- and high-school students (to be fair, South-Western recently changed its policy to prevent the practices I am criticizing).
The most interesting counter-argument comes from a STRS official, who maintains that allowing workers to be rehired after retiring does not create perverse incentives to retire earlier (oh really?), nor does it cost the system any more money. Good luck telling that to the taxpayers. Or the students without sports programs. Or the 11 percent of adults who are unemployed in the state. Or, well, anybody who isn't gaming the current system to earn upwards of $200,000.