Chopping retiree health benefits for future teachers won’t allay North Carolina’s monumental plunge in teacher recruiting, a guest columnist in The Asheville Citizen-Times wrote this weekend.
The column—authored by Lindsay Wagner of the progressive A.J. Fletcher Foundation—takes up state lawmakers’ move this year to do away with benefits while simultaneously lobbing multiple ideas to shore up the state’s well-documented recruiting troubles. (Disclosure: Wagner is a former reporter for N.C. Policy Watch.)
The proposal’s been long in the works at the GOP-controlled N.C. General Assembly, although critics say it’s likely to only fuel declining interest in the teaching profession in the state.
From Wagner’s column:
People do not go into teaching to get rich. But teachers do need to make a living wage and have some assurance that in exchange for below market wages they’ll be compensated in other ways, like having medical benefits that would bridge the gap between retirement age and the time they can opt into Medicare. That’s a big reason why many are willing to forego higher wages in the private sector and opt into careers like teaching.
Sen. Andy Wells (R-Hickory) has noted the $43 billion unfunded liability the retiree health plan currently faces. That’s certainly a figure that needs attention, but isn’t it worth debating how to fix it in public and with key stakeholders, rather than just jettisoning the program altogether for future state employees?
No need to do that when you’re banking on the naivete and current student debt loads of young millennials who are too wrapped up in themselves to question this move.
“If you’ve got a millennial with $35,000 in student debt, would they rather have cash?” Sen. Wells asked. “I’ve got three millennial sons they’re more here-and-now than maybe I was.”
Maybe Republicans do care about getting folks into the teaching profession — they are just doing their best to make sure those folks don’t stay too long. The longer they stay, the more expensive they get. North Carolina doesn’t want that burden.