Letter writer wrong on pensions

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Caty DeWalt wrote a June 22 letter titled “Does He Understand How His Pension Works?” in response to a piece by retired school teacher Bill Frye (“Why I Left Teaching,” June 15). Ironically, he seems to understand it much better than Ms. DeWalt.

She claims that retired teachers like Mr. Frye are “living off the percentage of the earnings that I and my fellow teachers contribute from our paychecks.” That’s not how pensions work; they are not a Ponzi scheme.

Employee contributions only fund the cost of their own benefits, with taxpayers contributing additional money to “pre-fund” pensions, assuming investment returns. Taxpayers also fund any pension debt that results from benefit increases, underfunding and investment losses. But in no way are current employees paying for the benefits of retirees.

Ms. DeWalt also claims, “While teachers unions are allowed to endorse candidates for political office, they do not use membership dues for any other political activity.” This is demonstrably false.

As Mr. Frye points out, the Pennsylvania State Education Association itself told its own members that 12 percent of their dues will be used on politics and lobbying this year. Union dues can and are used for an array of political activities, including radio and TV ads, contributions to political organizations and even independent expenditures supporting or opposing candidates.

Paycheck protection wouldn’t stop this political activity; it would simply prevent taxpayers from subsidizing it and give teachers more control over their own money.

Vice President of Policy Analysis
Commonwealth Foundation

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