TWIE: There Is No Teacher Pension (or Ed Reform) Free Lunch

Back in September I put a piece up at This Week in Ed about teacher pension reform:

In other words McGee and Winters are proposing sacrificing educators’ retirement security to achieve a system that is in some respects more fair and – perhaps – educationally more efficient. So there is no “free lunch” here; the trade-off is very real.

So the McGee/Winters plan may very well be good education policy. And, absent additional revenue, teachers’ defined-benefit pensions should probably be made somewhat less generous if for no other reason than to help keep them sustainable.

Nevertheless, private sector retirement plans are not obviously deserving of imitation. We may find that, like democracy, relatively generous defined-benefit pensions are the worst system except  for all the others.

A lot of pension reform proposals – like many education reform proposals in general – suffer from significant myopia. Certainly, educational outcomes matter, but they’re not all that matters.

Job security, retirement security, due process, equity: these are all things that even many education reformers value highly in general. But because many reformers are immersed in education, they sometimes lose sight of those values.

So I’m completely confident that many – most? – of the people working with Democratic-leaving education reform groups would, in other contexts, express concern about union strength, workers’ rights, and retirement security.

But when it comes to education, most or all of that concern mysteriously vanishes.

And so it is with teacher pensions, such that reducing teacher retirement security suddenly doesn’t count as a cost for our “free lunch”.

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