Teachers rally to reform New York's tiered pension system

"Everyone is here to say that everyone deserves the same dignified retirement," New York State United Teachers President Melinda Person told News 12.

Jonathan Gordon

Mar 7, 2024, 12:18 AM

Updated 41 days ago

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Hundreds of teachers and other union members rallied at Port Chester High School in Rye Brook calling on state lawmakers and Gov. Kathy Hochul to reform the state's tiered pension system in this year's budget.
"Everyone is here to say that everyone deserves the same dignified retirement," New York State United Teachers President Melinda Person told News 12.
All public school teachers and teaching assistants in New York outside of the five boroughs belong to the state Teachers' Retirement System. This system is broken down into six tiers depending on when you were first hired.
Each tier has different requirements how much a member will receive in retirement, how long they must work, and how much they must pay into the system.
For example, a Tier 4 member has their payments end after 10 years and are capped at 3%. They can also retire and collect their pensions, penalty-free, with 30 years of service at age 55.
Compared to a Tier 6 member who pays up to 6% as they earn more throughout their career. They also can't retire without facing severe penalties until age 63.
Advocates said this fight is about solidarity, and fairness, as well as keeping teachers both in the classroom and hiring talented new ones.
"We want to make sure for the future of our children in our schools, in our classrooms that they have the best-qualified teachers available to them," Port Chester Teachers Association President Chris Kazim said.
Port Chester Teachers Association President Chris Kazim said the disparities in tiered benefits have made it more difficult to retain good teachers and disincentivize young people from going into education contributing to a teacher shortage.
According to NYSUT, New York will need 180,000 new teachers in the next decade.
"There's a reason not to go into public service because of the disparities because of the changes that have happened in New York State over the past 10 or 12 years," Kazim said.
Making changes to the state's pension system has some legislative support at the state level.
State Sen. James Skoufis addressed a group of union members who rallied for this cause at the state capitol on Tuesday.
"You don't have good public education without good teachers and you don't have good teachers without good pay and good benefits," he said.
The governor's office has not yet responded to our request for comment as the state's budget deficit looms at the end of the month.


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