States across the nation have recently turned considerable attention to reforming retirement programs for public school teachers. Such efforts have been spurred by the widely recognized need to address the crisis of unfunded liabilities and the escalating annual payments that states must make to their teacher pension systems. But there is another compelling reason to consider reforming these systems: They work poorly for many teachers, particularly those who remain in the profession for less than the 30 years that is often required to become eligible for the maximum payout.
From our analysis of compensation in the nation’s 10 largest school districts, we find that two simple reforms—neither of which would increase spending—would allow school districts to:
- Raise teacher salaries, in some cases substantially;
- Give teachers more retirement security than they now have;
- Make teaching a more attractive option for people who are unsure that they will work for decades in the same school district; and
- Offer teachers more control over when they stop working.
What changes would allow schools to make teaching more attractive in these ways?