California Educator

September 2011

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TAKING A STAND PENSION TRUTH SQUAD PAYCHECK DECEPTION INITIATIVE PARENT TRIGGER 38 40 42 STAY INFORMED ABOUT CURRENT ADVOCACY EFFORTS AT WWW.CTA.ORG/ISSUES-AND-ACTION Pension Truth Squad hits the road to dispel myths about public pensions WITH ATTACKS AGAINST public pen- sions escalating, a cadre of retired CTA members is joining forces with Pension Truth Squads that have been barnstorming the state. Retired teachers in San Francisco, Sacra- mento, Fresno, Chico, San Luis Obispo, Riv- erside and Palm Springs have shared their stories and brought the truth to the public about their retirement plans. They are not alone in fighting back. They join a coali- The Pension Truth Squad events were launched in San Francisco in April by Cali- fornians for Retirement Security and have continued through the summer, garnering the attention of the news media statewide. "After 38 years of teaching Spanish, If anyone thinks that a teacher or a school secretary or a custodian or a government worker is living high on the hog, they don't know what they're talking about. –Sandra Mack tion of retired school employees, firefight- ers, police and other public employees who are out to set the record straight on public employee retirement. They are making it known that their pensions are modest — not the six-figure incomes that those who would undo the public employee pension system suggest. "We would like to dispel some of the myths about public employee pensions," said Alen Ritchie, a retired Redlands music teacher, who spoke at an event in River- side in May. "Teachers do not go into the profession for money, but we do deserve a livable retirement." 38 California Educator / September 2011 I received a pension, for which I'm grateful. But that does not make me wealthy," said Sandra Mack, a retired member of United Educators of San Francisco. "If anyone thinks that a teacher or a school secretary or a custodian or a govern- ment worker is living high on the hog, they don't know what they're talking about." California public employ- ees' contributions to their pensions have climbed from 5 percent to 7 percent and now to 10 percent, and their average public pension is $26,000. Many, including teachers, do not receive Social Security ben- efits. The average public teacher's pension in California is $33,000 a year after 27 years of service. "Our retirement benefits support the local economy," said Tim Jenkins, a San Diego elementary teacher for three decades, who participated in a Pension Truth Squad news conference in May. "Teachers' retirement ben- efits pumped more than $740 million into the San Diego area economy in the 2009-10 fiscal year. These are dollars that support our local businesses and create jobs." The Truth Squads have also called attention to the out-of-state billionaires and right-wing extremists with Tea Party ties who are driving the assault on California's middle class. Instead of ballot box proposals that would force public workers into risky 401(k) retirement plans, deci- sions regarding public pensions should be made at the bargaining table, the coalition maintains. "Now that I've retired, I'm grateful for my teacher's pension, which I spent 47 years con- tributing to," said Carol Roberson, a retired member of the Fresno Teachers Association, who spoke at an event in Fresno in July. "I'm not some fat cat or Wall Street banker, but I do have some peace of mind knowing my retirement is secure. And by the way, that's without the benefit of Social Security, since teachers in California are not permitted to receive Social Security." The California State Teachers' Retirement System, with a portfolio valued at $154.2 billion, is the largest teacher pension fund in the United States. CalSTRS administers a hybrid retirement system, consisting of a traditional defined benefit, cash balance and defined contribution plans, as well as disability and survivor benefits. CalSTRS serves Califor- nia's 852,000 public school educators and their families from the state's 1,600 school districts, county offices of education and community college districts. Also included in Californians for Retire- ment Security are state employees such as education support professionals who are members of the Public Employees' Retire- ment System (CalPERS). The systems operate differently and have some separate issues, but together they make a strong case for preserv- ing a secure retirement.

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