In the Nov. 9 edition of the Advocate, a reader from a Washington, D.C., coalition posited in an editorial letter that the current charter public schools in our great state are threatening the retirement of Louisiana teachers. The writer cites several statistics to this end: That only "29 percent of charter schools" participate in the Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana (TRSL) while the remaining offer either 401(k) plans or 403(b) retirement plans, and that a study indicated that turnover is twice as high at charter public schools as at traditional public schools.
This reader believes that the author vastly oversimplifies the economics of the various reasons people choose employment and professions. For example, I do not think that teachers choose their profession for the pension plan. Teaching is a "calling," and just as soldiers choose to defend their country, or fire and police choose to protect and serve their communities, to cite pensions as a reason to rethink charter public schools is an insult to the great teachers in both traditional and charter public schools. Secondly, charter schools are both a new concept and by their nature offer various innovative ideas in which to educate our next generation.
One would naturally expect turnover as well as other changes or adjustments to be greater than in a traditional education system that has been around for nearly a century. I would cite that the IT/tech profession has a similar higher turnover rate than, say, the traditional phone company.
Finally, the real measure of success or failure of new charter public schools is not pension plans but how well their students and graduates are doing as citizens. All initial indicators in these new public schools are that they, with a few exceptions, are doing quite well. Good teachers will gravitate to those schools that provide the best opportunities and job satisfaction in their "calling," not necessarily because of a pension plan versus a 401(k). This reader trusts their local judgment rather than a policy coalition from D.C.
John S. White