Protect teachers' pensions

Letters to the Portland Editor, February 25, 2011
By PORTLAND PHOENIX LETTERS  |  February 23, 2011

Our governor proposes more money for K-12 education, no cuts in funding for higher education, and increased funding for Medicaid. Good for almost everyone. He also promises to lower the personal state income tax for upper-income earners, and to eliminate the estate tax. Better for the already fortunate.

How to pay for all this?

By cutting pensions for retired teachers and state workers. He would suspend cost-of-living increases for two years, capping them at 2 percent thereafter. Retirement age would be raised to 65. I cannot speak for state workers. I'm not familiar with their circumstances — though taking 20 unpaid days is quite a sacrifice.

I am a retired teacher. Please note that Maine's teachers do not get Social Security. Pensions, to which we contribute, are our only regular post-retirement income. To ask us to fund the governor's budget priorities is unfair and outrageous.

Teaching, as a profession, is not respected. Teachers do not teach to make money. We know we will never be rich. Our lives will be under constant scrutiny; our weekends and evenings will often be spent correcting papers, preparing lessons, and attending school functions. We are told we don't deserve higher pay because we have "summers off." We are not paid for summers, but rather spend them taking courses to maintain certification or working seasonal jobs to make ends meet.

Why teach then? Because the kids are worth it! And there is the promise of a secure pension on retirement.

The governor's plan would shred that promise. There already have been no cost-of-living adjustments for two years. Continuing those zeros for two more years and capping adjustments at 2 percent from then on mean a slow downward slide that cannot be reversed. Good-bye, security.

The legislature has underfunded the teachers' pension for decades. Every year we face uncertainty about whether there will be enough to pay our monthly checks. The governor's proposal is but the latest in a string of broken promises. It is the ultimate insult to those who have taught you, your children, and your grandchildren.

Isabel Anderson

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