Did the Boston Globe step on a rake this morning and get
smacked in the face with its handle, wake up and suddenly realize the strategy all along of the teachers union; the
damage it will do to education and to the children?
Or more likely -- now that the teachers union "Early
Retirement" reward is law over Gov. Cellucci's veto -- has the Gimme Lobby shifted into second gear without skipping a beat?
It appears the More Is Never Enough crowd is racing into the
next calculated propaganda phase: preparing the taxpaying public for a wave of double-dipping teachers rehired amidst the
inevitable "teacher shortage crisis" which they intentionally created.
Before presenting the Boston Globe's sudden awakening, today
the Boston Sunday Herald presents us with a Profile in Cowardice that cannot be overlooked.
The Boston Sunday Globe
June 25, 2000
Need seen to recruit retired teachers
Supporters say bill offers incentives
By Michael Crowley, Globe Staff
It's a long way from Massachusetts to the palm trees and
Pacific breezes of Hawaii. But as he fought in vain to prevent the Legislature from passing a sweeping new teacher retirement
plan into law last week, Governor Paul Cellucci hoped local lawmakers would heed the words of
his counterpart in Honolulu when he expressed regret about a similar law there.
"The early retirement law was a mistake," Governor Benjamin
Cayetano said at his 1997 State of the State address of a measure passed three years earlier. "It is doubtful whether it
produced any savings. But it is very clear that too many of our most experienced teachers left
the classroom prematurely."
With that, Cayetano began an effort to reverse the law and
lure retired teachers back to Hawaii's classroooms.
After a wave of bills around the country encouraging early
teacher retirement, many states are trying to bring back retired teachers.
Critics of the Massachusetts teacher retirement law argue
that lawmakers here will also have to set about reversing the exodus of experienced teachers from the classroom. Both the
House and Senate voted overwhelmingly last week to override Cellucci's veto, and the law is
scheduled to take effect in July 2001.
Early retirement bills are "something that a lot of states
have done over the past five years," said Eric Harris, a policy analyst at the National Conference of State Legislatures. "What
we see right now is states looking at actually how to get retirees back into the classroom, rather
than to potentially get them to leave earlier."
But backers of the Massachusetts law say that it will allow
recently retired teachers to come back to the schools and that the new retirement package will give the state an advantage in
the cutthroat world of teacher recruiting.
Cellucci contends that the new bill will devastate education
reform in Massachusetts and prompt an exodus of 20,000 teachers over five years.
But the bill's backers say a teacher shortage is the inevitable result of demographics. The new
law, they say, will at worst slightly accelerate the expected retirement of up to
half the state's 80,000 teachers by the end of the decade.
"The question is not if they will retire, but when," said
Stephen Gorrie, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Assocation.
The law would increase teacher pensions by 2 percent a year
after 24 years of service. Those higher benefits, available only to teachers who have worked at least 30 years, could total
several thousand dollars annually, allowing many teachers to retire sooner than they had
planned. (The system will be optional for current teachers but mandatory for new ones hired
Under the new plan, for instance, a 59-year-old teacher with
36 years of experience will be able to retire at his or her maximum pension benefit level, which is 80 percent of a
teacher's final average salary. Under the current system, that teacher would have to work until age 63
before collecting maximum benefits or retire immediately with a 68 percent
Those changes will cause a few thousand teachers a year to
retire early, say the bill's sponsors, who are somewhat vague about hard numbers.
But they say the bill addresses the need to encourage some
retired teachers to return to the classroom with a provision allowing school districts to reemploy retired teachers after a
two-year buffer period, without cutting off pension benefits.
Facing teacher shortages, Maryland, North Carolina, South
Carolina, Missouri, and Texas passed bills in the last year allowing retired teachers to return to classrooms and still
receive pension benefits. Alaska and Tennessee are considering such changes. California expanded
an existing program four years ago.
Some critics, including Cellucci aides and Boston University
chancellor John Silber, have ridiculed that provision in Massachusetts as
But the law's backers say they don't understand how critics
can both complain the bill will lead to a teacher shortage and decry efforts to address the shortage.
"Almost every public or private retiree goes out and gets
another job," said Representative John Slattery, a Peabody Democrat. "They do something to earn extra money. So that's a
scam. It's not a truthful argument."
Slattery and teachers union officials expect that most
retirees would return to classrooms part time or in mentoring roles and thus would not collect exorbitant amounts of public
What's more, they argue, Massachusetts offers teachers less
generous pension benefits than many other states. According to the Massachusetts Teachers Federation, the Bay State's 80
percent benefit cap is an anomaly: 41 states allow teachers to collect 100 percent of their final
But the Cellucci administration counters that the new
benefits will come at a high price that could scare away new recruits. The new legislation will require an 11 percent annual
contribution from all new teachers. Currently, new teachers pay 9 percent on their first
$30,000 of salary and 11 percent on income thereafter. That contribution level is substantially
higher than those of most other states.
Education policy specialists say Massachusetts and other
states face more fundamental questions about how to attract young people to a profession in which pay is low and morale is
"How able and prepared is the state to recruit and bring in
new teachers?" asked Bruce Cooper, professor of education administration at Fordham University in New York. "Young
people are just not coming into education."