Study Finds Teachers Value Pensions


Teachers nationwide say both their public pension plan — like the one provided by the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System — and their commitment to public service keep them in their classrooms despite job stress, a new study finds.

While 84% of teachers say their jobs are stressful, 95% say they remain in the classroom because they are committed to public service, according to a study by the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS). The promise of a pension is also a major reason they stay in the job, as 86% say their defined benefit pension is a factor in their decision.

Specific to pensions, 94% of public school teachers surveyed agree that pensions are an effective way for an employer to recruit new teachers, and 96% say they are an effective retention tool. In fact, 90% of teachers say they plan to stay with their current employer until they are eligible for retirement or can no longer work because of their pension, the study found.

Teachers overwhelmingly agree that eliminating or reducing public pensions would harm education by making it much harder to attract new qualified teachers and to keep experienced teachers in the classroom.

These results mirror the opinions of other public sector workers, including firefighters and police officers, who were also surveyed for the study, titled “State and Local Employee Views on Their Jobs, Pay and Benefits.” More than 1,000 public sector employees currently participating in public pension plans expressed their opinions for the survey in August and September 2019.

The study noted that “salaries in the public sector typically are lower than those in the private sector for employees with comparable education and experience, thereby making competing for talent more difficult.” However, benefits such as defined benefit pension plans and health insurance help offset the lower salaries, the study said.

“It’s clear from the research that public service is important to state and local workers like teachers, nurses, police officers and firefighters,” said NIRS Executive Director Dan Doonan. “They serve despite high job stress and lower salaries. And it’s equally clear that healthcare and retirement benefits have a magnetic effect on public employees.”

The study noted that policy makers should tread carefully whenever deciding to modify retirement benefits “as such changes could have the unintended consequence of driving employees out the door and consequently harming public services.”

For more details on this and other retirement-related studies, check out the Pension Education Toolkit on our website.

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