|(Image by Mike Licht)|
Gov. Brown has not yet revealed his plan for dealing with CalSTRS, although he has promised to spare K-12 education any further cuts next year if voters approve tax increases on themselves in the June election (an exaggeration at best: See Who Do You Think You’re Fooling, Jerry). However, legislators have to approve placing the tax measure on the ballot. Republicans have said that pension reform will be required before they will approve placing any tax increases on the June ballot. Therefore, if teachers unions oppose pension “reform” (which likely means greater out of pocket contributions and/or lower benefits), they will be accused of selfishly supporting cuts to education spending and the accompanying increases in class sizes, school closures, and program cuts, (not to mention furloughs, layoffs, and pay and benefits cuts).
According to Fensterwald, pension contributions make up around 18% of a teacher’s salary. CalSTRS is recommending that this percentage be raised to 33%. CalSTRS cannot impose this. Rather, it will be up to the legislature to decide how much to raise contributions. Districts and the state also contribute to the pension fund. However, with the monstrous state budget deficit and declining revenues in all districts, it is very unlikely that the CalSTRS shortfall will be covered by larger state or district increases. Teachers are the ones who will be asked to make the sacrifice.