The recent letter from Tyler Bond of the National Public Pension Coalition lamenting the fact that teachers in some Louisiana charter schools will receive lower pensions than those enrolled in the Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana really misses the mark. Using the example he gave, the problem is not that charter school teachers that fully participate in a savings system like a 401(k) for 35 years will only receive 55 percent of their pre-retirement income when they retire. The real problem is that teachers with 35 years in the public pension program would receive 86 percent. It is well known that many or most public pension programs are grossly underfunded because they are too lucrative in the first place.
Private pension programs are required by law to be funded properly. Probably the primary way that some see to fully fund the public programs is to raise taxes on everyone, many of whom do not benefit from any sort of pension program or benefit from something much less generous. A better way would be to reduce the benefit so the funding could gradually approach solvency. The charter school program is only recognizing what many private sector workers already experience, and that is we cannot afford such lucrative pension programs. For new teachers, some states have already started reducing the annual factor employed when calculating retirement benefits. That is a start in the right direction, but more is needed.