Monday, January 25, 2010

Consequences to retirement

TorSun's Moira MacDonald had this piece in today's paper highlighting some of the conversations and exchanges she's had with retired teachers since she published her first column late last year about the richest double-dip in Ontario. From the piece:
The e-mail flew thick and fast — some from grateful new teachers and their families, but most from annoyed retired teachers.
“Stop thinking that every retired teacher is sitting on a pile of money,” wrote one person, accusing me of branding a working retired teacher as “a bad person” — as if presenting the debate automatically tarred all working retirees.
“Have you read any of the research that suggests retiring ‘cold turkey’ has been linked to shortening lifespan?” wrote another.

Retirees pointed out their pension benefits aren’t as great as people might think — they don’t come with a health plan (though some boards allow retirees to pay into one) — and modest pensions might be decimated by paying for private health benefits, financial fall-out from a late-in-life divorce, supporting kids in university, or chronic health problems that prevented them from earning a full pension before retirement.
Most of us can relate — because that’s life, and we all cope with it, some without a company pension, whether we paid into it or not. (Teachers currently put 11% of their earnings into theirs, the government matches it.)
Just because you turn 65 does not mean you can no longer do the job — some of us may be better than ever. But eventually we have to give the younger generation a crack. If we don’t, they’re going to have less experience, may totally give up the profession because they can’t get a job, and won’t be fully contributing into the tax base that will increasingly support all of our retirees.
Like MacDonald, I have some trouble digesting these reactions. Nobody forced these teachers, many of whom have clocked out of their contracts the moment they became eligible, to hang up their chalk sticks and enter retirement. While some may have been forced to retire at 65, legislation has changed that and those older retirees could now return. Many of the retired teachers I know personally are well below that threshold.
Complaints about their pension? It may not be diamond-encrusted, but it's certainly a gold-plated, public service pension. Given the salaries many of these teachers are retiring at ($75,000+ would be my conservative estimate), even a percentage of that is much, much healthier than what awaits many of us.
Many teachers circled their retirement date on calendar and budgeted on being able to get occasional-teacher contracts to their annual max (or beyond) to supplement that income so they could live the life they wanted to. The willingness to accept that is, hopefully, changing.
Whenever the next reconsideration of this arrangement is up, I would hope these generous provisions to double-dip are axed. What other profession / craft allows you to return to work, earn a full salary and not be penalized on your pension earnings?
If this is axed, given the over-abundant pool of certified talent available in this province, teachers eligible for retirement should ponder their options carefully. If they can't afford retirement, they may just have to face the same choice others do and stay at work. To claim poverty as the reason for taking advantage of this rich allowance is an insult to those who will never get that option.
You might say that would keep them around longer and still prevent entry into the profession for younger candidates. But at least then they could access a greater share of occasional-teacher placements, as opposed to currently, as they're blocked from permanent contracts because of declining enrolment and then further by retired teachers on occasional teacher lists.


Anonymous said...

Whatever happened to common sense in this situation? Couldn't the brain-trust of our system come up with a balance of older teachers to younger teachers?

What astounds me is that the education faculties are still taking the money and accepting newbie teacher recruits, but no one's wondering if they've noticed the decline in enrollments across the province and that maybe we just don't need as many teachers as we have or will need?

With several teachers, a principal and two university profs. in my family I can tell you that for the most part they live VERY WELL!

In conversation with a retired teacher last week I was told that she had supplied close to 40 times last year and all of those were to take over for a teacher who had been seconded to the MOE for in-service training. Her comment to me was that in-service wouldn't have been allowed when she was employed full time. Any upgrades were done on weekends or after school hours. She wondered out loud whether people would be pissed if they knew that it cost them twice to educate the same kids - once for the classroom teacher "in-service" and again to pay for a substitute? Good question.

Anonymous said...

Anon. 8:18am,

I agree that ed. faculties need to take some responsibility in all of this.

I know several new teachers, some older new teachers also who have been on a supply list for what seems like EVER at the Thames Valley DSB.

Have also heard of some new grads taking full advantage of the "it's not what you know, it's who you know" theory of job placement.

I see this as another area where abuses can occur of the system and it's got nothing to do with a love of teaching or children. It's all about making a decent living. Can't begrudge folks that but there's an underlying perception when educators begin to complain about being hard done by that really gets people's backs up who are otherwise employed and may never see the sweet deals educators get.

What's always interest me is the number of school principals who retire and who can also benefit from supply teaching when, as principals they were not unionized with teachers yet they pave their way back to the classroom.

It definitely warrants a closer look into all of this.


RetDir said...

As both the collector of a pension, and a parent of a daughter looking for teaching work, I have a number of thoughts on this issue. First, the pensions are good, and I don't see any reason why in an affluent society everyone who earns money couldn't contribute to this pension plan, or a similar one, at the same contribution rates, and with the government matching it. Think of it as souped up CPP - but like CPP, to work everyone would have to contribute based on their taxable income, including the self-employed.
Some facts - the average pension paid to a teacher is $36,000, according to the Pension Plan. I'm guessing the pension of recently retired teachers is higher - when I was planning for my retirement I was told that that the average pension collected is 52% of the average of their best five years when they retire. So a teacher who retires this year having been at A4 max in the elementary panel will likely have a pre-tax income of about $40,000 dollars, which does represent a significant reduction in their monthly income flow. It's also important to note that a teacher contributing at that rate prior to retirement has probably been unable to contribute to an RRSP, as their contribution room disappears because of their contributions to the plan. So its not surprising that they look for employment (either in or out of education) when they retire.
There are restrictions on how much work a teacher on a pension can do for a school board - currently two years of 95 days maximum, and then a permanent cap of 20 days a year following those two years (regardless of the number of days worked in those first two years). So, if those rules were enforced, after the first two years no-one is supposed to teach more than 20 days, or roughly 10% of the school year. If they do their pension is supposed to be put on hold, and they start to contribute again. The reason I say "supposed" is that there is currently no way for the pension plan to track the days worked - boards don't necessarily report them, and a person could teach for more than one board. Principals are bound by the same rules (as are retired directors, although not many of us work as teachers after retirement - of those who don't fully retire, most become self-employed, and a few go to the Ministry of Ed, which is not bound by these restrictions as they then have to contribute to OMERS).
The impact, for sure, is less work for new grads who, as someone pointed out, are being churned out at the same rate as when we supposedly had a teacher shortage. Occasional teacher lists are usually capped, which means my daughter can't get on them (regardless of who she knows) unless she has a specific qualification that is in demand (e.g., FSL). So it does make life tougher for new teachers, and does mean that many don't end up entering teaching. The financial incentive to universities to continue to churn out teachers is enormous, so this is unlikely to change.
Very few teachers teach up to age 65, let alone past it. However, one of the rights people have is the right to employment, so pension plans have to be very careful that they aren't seen as violating that right (which the current rules don't, as the teacher makes the decision to continue past the point at which they have to contribute). The unions are in a bit of a bind here as well, as they have to represent all members, and can't be seen to be biased against their older ones on the basis of age...and they run the pension plan.
I think the solution is to continue to allow retired teachers to work, but to stop their pension on the first day they teach, and for every day they teach. Eliminates 'double-dipping', increases the chances of young teachers getting work, and doesn't constitute a restriction on employment. The unions are currently in the process of reviewing this with the government, so we may see changes soon.

Education Reporter said...

I had a gorgeous reply all typed out and ready to post, then realized I was signed into Google with the wrong ID. Lost it.
Maybe I'll get psyched up to write it later.


HBO said...

"they don’t come with a health plan (though some boards allow retirees to pay into one) — and modest pensions might be decimated by paying for private health benefits, financial fall-out from a late-in-life divorce, supporting kids in university, or chronic health problems that prevented them from earning a full pension before retirement."

There are also supply teachers that are experiencing divorce, have kids that will be attending post-secondary education in just a few years, have absolutely no health benefits, experiencing health problems, and don't have a backup pension cheque to tide them over if they don't get work. And they cannot make plans because they need to sit by the phone and take whatever jobs they get. No picking and choosing the choice assignments.

But...I know that some principals, when requiring a last minute replacement for a difficult class or situation, do appreciate having an experienced teacher familiar with the school and the students to fill in for the day.

"What other profession / craft allows you to return to work, earn a full salary and not be penalized on your pension earnings?"

Living within BWDSB boundaries, I can think of one...

Education Reporter said...

After my earlier comment, I read Retdir's and completely agree. Make retirees choose-- either pension or OT salary but not both.

This might see more experienced teachers staying in their contracts later into their lives, however it would drastically reduce the ones who teach when and where they want to without pension penalty and in the process keep graduates from obtaining any employment.


Anonymous said...

ER & RetDir. - As a parent there are times lately, especially where Grade 12 Math is concerned that I wished for the comeback of the retired teacher because the kids are just not as prepared now as they were with the more experienced teacher who knew the subject matter better.

Similarly I thank the more seasoned teachers in elementary school who bucked the trends of whole language and fuzzy math and took heat from their principals and colleagues for doing so but turned out confident learners who weren't intimidated by hard work and challenge.