Arizona Education Association

Advocate Fall 2012

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AROUND AEA AROUND AEA AROUND AEA AROUND AEA AROUND AEA AROUND AEA AROUND AEA AROUND AEA AROUND AEA AROUND AEA AROUND AEA AROUND AEA AROUND AEA AROUND AEA AROUND AEA AROUND AEA AROUND AEA AROUND AEA AEA Victory for Public School Employees Retirement Contribution Rate Returned to 50/50 This past spring, Arizona public school employees received refunds from the state and a reduction in their Arizona State Retirement System (ASRS) contribution rate. This extra money is a direct result of the Arizona Education Association's (AEA) legal and legislative victories in stopping Arizona's leaders from reducing over 200,000 public school employees' salaries in order to fill last year's budget deficit. During the 2011 Legislative Session, Governor Jan Brewer, former Senate President Russell Pearce, and former Speaker of the House Kirk Adams crafted a budget deal that reduced public school employees' take-home pay by increasing the percentage of employee- paid contributions to the ASRS. Rather than a 50-percent employer and 50-percent employee contribution split, employee contribution rose to 53 percent and the employer rate was reduced to 47 percent. The AEA, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and American Federation of Teachers (AFT) filed a lawsuit on July 14, 2011, on behalf of seven plaintiffs, challenging a change in contribution amounts to ASRS. The plaintiffs included AEA members Katie Barnes, Marilyn Calhoun, Kristi Frederickson, Marisol Garcia, and Jennie Stemm. On February 3, 2012, the Arizona Superior Court ruled in favor of teachers, education support employees, and other members of the ASRS and found the legislation to be illegal to reduce the salaries of school employees/ public employees by increasing the retirement contribution rate. On April 12, 2012, the Court ordered ASRS to stop collecting at the 47/53 ratio for the retirement portion of the contribution immediately and awarded attorney fees. As a result of AEA's legal victory, Governor Brewer and the state legislature passed legislation that returned the ASRS contribution rate back to an equal 50/50 split between the state and its workers on May 7, 2012. It also required the state to refund any contributions made in excess of 50 percent. The bill contained an emergency clause which means 10 Fall 2012 ❘ AEA Advocate that it became law and the rate went back to 50/50 when the governor signed it. Thus the amount owed employees will be for the duration of July 1, 2011 until May 8, 2012. The bill also appropriated funding to school districts so that the money taken from school employees must be returned to them by September 30, 2012. Depending on the school district and how quickly payroll departments can implement the change, school employees should have already noticed the change in ASRS contribution rate in their paycheck in May and should have either already received their refund or will receive it by the end of September. The Arizona Constitution, based on an amendment AEA helped pass in the 1990s, protects public employees' retirement benefits from legislative raids. This constitutional provision, through AEA's lawsuit, protected all public school employees from this attempt to decrease their retirement benefits by increasing their contribution rate. In these tough economic times, this victory demonstrates the importance of AEA membership. By standing together educators had the foresight and power to: 1) pass a constitutional provision over a decade ago, 2) enforce it in court this year, and 3) as a result of relationships with legislators developed by AEA staff and leaders, get legislation passed to return the ASRS contribution rate back. AEA's actions puts money in our members' pockets and saves them money over the long term by ensuring lawmakers cannot reduce their salary by increasing their ASRS contribution in the future. This victory was made possible because the AEA, the professional association of Arizona's public school employees, fought for our members. Our members should take pride in their membership and what it has accomplished. AEA urges members to be proud and tell colleagues about this victory and ask them to join the Association. Without our collective strength and legal expertise, the legislature might continue to raise our retirement contributions. Standing together, we are stronger. 2

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