Teacher strike threat highlights need for PERS reform

Clark County teachers are understandably upset over rising PERS costs, which have gone up nearly 45 percent since 2007 and now cost the average teacher over $17,000 a year.

Given the teachers union is now threatening to strike, in part over last month’s PERS rate increase, it is worth remembering what teachers can expect to receive in exchange for paying more into the state Public Employees’ Retirement System:

Absolutely nothing.

Every PERS rate hike since 2007 has gone entirely towards paying down the system’s multi-billion dollar deficit, an added cost which provides no benefit of any kind to teachers. Making matters worse is the fact that teachers hired after 2015 are receiving reduced PERS benefits, meaning they are now being forced to pay the nation’s highest PERS rates in order to subsidize the much-richer benefits of their veteran counterparts.

“Rising PERS costs means less money for teacher salaries,” NPRI Policy Director Robert Fellner said. “It would be one thing if those costs translated to richer retirement benefits, but that’s not happening.”

“Instead,” Fellner continued, “today’s teachers are seeing their paychecks docked in order to make up for the system’s past funding failures.”

In addition to eliciting complaints from PERS members themselves, such a profoundly unfair and inefficient system has been sharply criticized by experts across the ideological spectrum, including those with Bellwether Education Partners, the Brookings Institution, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the left-leaning Urban Institute.

Unfortunately, this is not a problem that can be solved locally, according to Fellner.

“Rising PERS costs burden the school district just as much as the teachers,” Fellner said. “The Legislature must reform PERS so that teachers receive the full benefit of their contributions, instead of requiring them to pay a 45 percent tax to fund the much richer benefits received by the previous generation of workers.”

For more information, please email NPRI Policy Director Robert Fellner at Robert@NevadaPolicy.org

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