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February 12, 2010
PERA advances; 3 charter bills introduced
The House passed the PERA rescue plan Friday, and House Speaker Terrance Carroll introduced three bills intended to improve charter school quality.
February 10, 2010
Soda levy, other tax exemption bills pass
The Senate Wednesday gave final approval to nine bills that are supposed to raise about $148 million in revenue for the battered state treasury.
February 4, 2010
Teacher pension fund lost $9 billion last year while costs rose
In Albany this week, UFT President Michael Mulgrew floated a plan to save the city money by letting teachers retire earlier. But a new report on the health of the city's teachers pension fund suggests that Mulgrew's proposal would only compound the fund's potentially crippling budget crunch. The fund's annual report, released last week, shows that it lost 29 percent of its value, more than $9 billion, last school year, even as the portion the city is required to pay reached unprecedented heights. The mix of rising costs and declining value raises serious questions about how the city will be able to afford to pay the pensions it has promised in the future without major concessions by the teachers union. The fund, called the Teachers Retirement System (TRS), is a collection of investments paid for with a combination of taxpayer dollars and teacher salaries. Every year a chunk of it is used to pay retired teachers and principals the pensions state law says they are owed. Last year's financial crisis sunk the fund to its lowest level in more than 15 years, effectively erasing all of the gains made in the past decade's bull market, according to a database of TRS's financial reports. Over that time span, the fund's value, adjusted for inflation, has shrunk by more than $11 billion. This leaves a $15 billion gap between what the fund expects to pay out in the next 30 or so years and what it will have saved by that time, according to the TRS's preferred accounting method. Another way of calculating these "unfunded liabilities" used in the private sector puts the number even higher, at $27 billion. "It's not a crisis. It's a long-run big problem: The pension system is far more costly than it ought to be," said Charles Brecher of the Citizens Budget Commission, an independent group that advocates for changes in city and state finances.
February 1, 2010
PERA bill clears Senate
The Senate Monday morning voted 25-10 to pass Senate Bill 10-001, the measure intended to restore PERA to solvency over the next 30 years.
January 26, 2010
PERA compromise wins panel support
The proposed Public Employees’ Retirement Association rescue plan passed the Senate Finance Committee 5-2 Tuesday after members approved key changes supported by education interests.
January 12, 2010
Budget woes top 2010 education agenda
In addition to K-12 budget cuts and pensions, top education issues are expected to include charter school regulation, testing, how to slice the shrinking higher ed financial pie and improved alignment between community and four-year colleges.
December 17, 2009
PERA plan: “Work longer, pay more, receive less”
There was no good news in a legislative discussion Thursday on the financial future of the Public Employees’ Retirement Association.
October 22, 2009
PERA woes loom large for education
The budget and school finance aren’t the only big-money headaches facing legislators and educators in 2010 - add pensions to the list.
July 28, 2009
Fiscal stability panel saves worst for last
The legislator-citizen commission that’s studying the state fiscal system had a long day of state agency briefings Tuesday but didn’t take on two of the most serious financial issues – government employee pensions and higher education – until the end of the agenda.
June 23, 2009
A new UFT-city labor deal, but no mention of the ATR pool
Mayor Bloomberg and UFT President Randi Weingarten announced a tentative contract deal last night, just in time for Weingarten's announcement Wednesday. The agreement would roll back pension benefits for newly hired employees, but preserve benefits for current teachers. It would also scrap the two work days before Labor Day that were added to the work year in the last contract negotiation. Not mentioned in either Bloomberg's press release or Weingarten's e-mail to teachers (sent late last night and obtained thanks to a helpful reader): the small matter of the $81 million-a-year Absent Teacher Reserve. That's the pool of teachers who are the losers in the system's new hiring market — but haven't been able to find positions at schools. The union and the city struck a deal to try to drain the pool in November, but the number of reserve teachers stayed basically the same. This appears to be Weingarten's penultimate loose end before she leaves the city to work at the national teachers union full-time. The final deal she must announce: A contract agreement with the union-represented Green Dot charter school in the Bronx, which officials are unveiling this afternoon. Here's how Weingarten described the new citywide labor agreement in an e-mail to teachers, followed by Bloomberg's press release:
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