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  • NY Still the best Place to be a teacher! For how long?
    Posted On: Jan 28, 2017

    NY is still the best state to be a teacher! For how long? 

    One of the most important reasons why NY is still the best state for teachers is the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System (NYSTRS). At the November 2016 Annual Delegate Convention, NYSTRS Retirement Board President David P. Keefe said it best, “Tier 6, as bad as we think it is, the benefits are still better than the other 49 states.” Our pension is guaranteed by the NYS Constitution Article V, §7. 

    State of New York Constitution Article V, §7

    {Membership in retirement systems; benefits not to be diminished nor impaired.} §7. After July first, nineteen hundred forty, membership in any pension or retirement system of the state or of a civil division thereof shall be a contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired.

    (New. Adopted by Constitutional Convention of 1938 and approved by vote of the people November 8, 1938.) 

    Executive Director and Chief Investment Officer Thomas K. Lee’s business acumen and expertise—as well as those of his team—help NYSTRS remain among the best-funded public retirement systems in the nation, and it may be the best-funded teachers’ plan.

    With $107.5 billion in assets at the end of its 2016 fiscal year, the Retirement System was 104.1% funded using a market value of assets and 94.2% using an actuarial value of assets. This information is among the many positive details found in NYSTRS’ recently released Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for the Fiscal Years Ended June 30, 2016 and 2015. (NYSTRS Nov., 2016)

    (NYSTRS Nov., 2016)

    A recent study by the National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems (NCPERS), The NYSTRS defined benefit plan is managed cost effectively, with investment fees and expenses averaging 24 cents per $100 managed, compared to 70-78 cents per $100 managed for the typical defined contribution plan, such as a 401(k) or mutual fund.

    NYSTRS currently serves 426,173 active and retired members, including beneficiaries. Benefits paid to retirees in 2015 totaled approximately $6.7 billion. More than 80% of these benefits are paid to New York State residents which significantly impact state and local economies. As benefit recipients spend their money in local communities, one person’s spending becomes another person’s income, creating a multiplier effect. According to the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS), expenditures stemming from New York’s state and local pensions support:

    • More than 270,000 jobs that pay some $17 billion in wages and salaries;
    • $7.4 billion in federal, state and local tax revenues; and,
    • $44.3 billion in total economic output.  (NYSTRS Nov., 2016)

    NIRS also estimates that in New York each dollar paid in pension benefits generates about $1.70 in total economic activity. As of June 30, 2016, the distribution of benefits paid to 3,072 retired members and beneficiaries of Dutchess County totaled more than $135.4 million, generating approximately $230.2 million of total economic activity in Dutchess County. Can we fathom what the economy of our county would be without the aforementioned economic infusion from the retirees that live here?

    Unfortunately, public employee pensions are facing a wide range of assaults on many fronts. These attacks are not based on facts. For the most part, these arguments are myths being used to undervalue the vital public service teachers and other public employees provide to our communities. Public retirees should not be subjected to these affronts for collecting a pension they earned after decades of hard work and wanting to live with dignity in retirement.

    A veritable threat to not only our pension, but also our constitutional rights, is the Constitutional Convention that comes up every 20 years and the voters are asked: “Shall there be a convention to revise the constitution and amend the same?” These 12 simple words will appear on the top of the ballot on Nov. 7, 2017, and could have a catastrophic impact on every resident in the state. We must vote no and reject the redrafting of the state’s charter document.  (NYSUT 2016)

    The constitution establishes the fundamental rights we enjoy as citizens of New York State and as public employees. A constitutional convention could easily assuage or eliminate these rights:

    • Guaranteeing the right to a free public education (Article 11, §1)
    • Prohibiting reductions in public pension benefits (Article 5, §7)
    • Rights to workers’ compensation (Article 1, §18)
    • Rights to be a member of a union and bargain collectively (Article 1, §17)
    • Requiring the state to provide for social welfare needs (Article 27, §1)

    If some of these rights are simply altered, we have the making of a right-to-work state that would take away many of the benefits that perhaps we take for granted. The false slogan known as "right to work" will push unions out of the state, drive down wages; diminish retirement benefits, levy high percentage for subpar health insurance and much more.

    Presently there are 26 right-to-work states where right to work laws prohibit agreements between employers and labor unions. These laws do not aim to provide general guarantee of employment to people seeking work, but rather are a government regulation of the contractual agreements between employers and labor unions that prevents them from excluding non-union workers.

    I suggest the reading of How to Kill the Middle Class: Strangling public-sector unions in Wisconsin has shrunk teachers’ pay and benefits. Who’s next?
    How ironic Wisconsin has become: it was the first state in 1959 to allow collective bargaining for government workers!

    Another threat to our profession is the nomination of billionaire anti-public school activist Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education. The DeVos foundation spent nearly $1.5 million to persuade the Michigan legislature to kill a bill to regulate charter schools. As a result of her efforts, 80% of the charter schools in Michigan operate for profit, without accountability. Her inexperience and support of private school vouchers will devastate public education and will result in loss of our members’ jobs.

    I encourage the WCT membership to join the Network for Public Education in a national letter-writing campaign urging Senators to vote no to her confirmation. Please email the NPE statement below to your Senators and also share the information with your colleagues and on social media. Click here to get started now.

    After two and a half years of dedicated service as the Commentator editor, Shahnna Allen is stepping down to pursue other interests. On behalf of the WCT leadership, I would like to thank her and wish her the very best in her future endeavors.

    I’m pleased to welcome back Meredith Inkeles as the returning editor of the Commentator.  Her noteworthy experience and dedication will undoubtedly ensure the success of our newsletter.

    At this time, on behalf of myself and my family, I would like to wish you and yours a very happy and blessed holiday season and a prosperous New Year!

    In Solidarity,

    Pasquale Delli Carpini

    Pasquale Delli Carpini
    WCT President

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