Letter to the editor: State backpedal on pension agreement is wrong

I am writing today because I oppose the recent recommendations State Treasurer Beth Pearce has made to alter the Teachers’ Retirement System. I am a sixth-generation Vermonter and a first-generation college graduate. Currently, I am in my 18th year as a teacher at Mary Hogan School. I am passionate about teaching, but one of the primary reasons I chose to enter this field is because it offered a pension. A pension provided the security of retirement, possibly giving me a stable future, unlike the later years experienced by some of my family members and friends who worked beyond their 60s and experienced levels of financial insecurity. At 20 I was told if I chose this path, my retirement years would be secure. It certainly doesn’t feel secure now, especially as promises already made are in danger of being broken.

Treasurer Pearce called her suggestions a solution, which feels beyond frustrating. I am a solution; teachers are the solution. We support the ability for our economy to function at its most basic level. We are welcoming students each day, creating a positive, safe environment regardless of what is happening outside our building, and fostering rich learning experiences in our classrooms. Teachers already fall behind other college graduates in the wages we earn. To directly attack the retirement system we have paid into in good faith feels worthy of a fight.

Gutting teacher retirement is wrong. Frankly, the state agreeing to fund their share into the system and then retracting on their word translates to at least $100,000 being pulled out of my pension, and that of any teacher with 15-20 years left of their career. I don’t understand how this is the only option, given the individual impacts and the obvious bad business deal that caused it. We teach children mistakes happen and when they do the way to correct the error is to make a repair. The State agreed to contribute each year to the Teachers’ Retirement Fund and they did not. Any other business acting in the same manner would be sued. The State needs to repair their error. It is not my fault the State did not fund the system as it said it would 10 years ago. Once that action has occurred, we can begin to problem-solve the next steps.

I believe in Vermonters and their ability to do the right thing. I believe so strongly in Vermont, I was specific in choosing a career in education because it was supposed to be a sustainable choice that allowed me to stay in my home state.

If you are a citizen who supports education (and educators) in Vermont, I hope you will consider writing to your local legislators to say this is not a burden teachers should have to pay for, but instead a politician-caused mistake the State needs to correct. If you are one of those legislators, I hope you will think long and hard not just about the rationalizations you and Treasurer Pearce have been offering in public (and in private letters back to teachers), but about the very ethics of what you are doing.

Jenn Larocque, M.Ed., NBCT

East Middlebury

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