I'm baaaaaaack.

Hoarding All the Glitter Since 2001.

09 June 2012

ETA: This is what's driving "pension failure" by the way.

Oh, superintendents.

Generally I wouldn't link to stories that are ultimately part of the Pensions Are Evil storyline.  I think that all workers should be assured a sustainable retirement, and I believe that as a society we have the means - but not the will - to make that happen.

In this case, I am breaking my own rule because the superintendents play some administrator whiny cards that are just to obnoxious to let stand.

For instance, David Meany - retired Superintendent from SCOE - is pulling down a nice $192,000 a year from STRS.  This is more than his highest annual salary.  He'd like you to know that this is fair because he can't take Social Security benefits.

That's true: teachers with pensions aren't going to be receiving any Social Security benefits they earned, nor any their partners earned.  But in Mr. Meany's case, this complaint is offensive.  It's like complaining that you have to buy premium fuel because you drive a Corvette.

(For the record, it irritates me that my fellow citizens are so willing to destroy my pension, but if successful are extremely unlikely to restore my Social Security benefits.  As it stands now, though, my Social Security deposits don't bother me - I believe in a national retirement program and I don't mind supporting it.)

Bob Wells, the executive director of the Association of California School Administrators, does not see why Superintendent pensions - and more broadly, their pay - is a problem.  After all, we have all these NCLB requirements and accountability and stuff, right?  Superintendents could totally lose their jobs now, what with this accountability.

Make this argument in a room full of teachers and they will fall over laughing, then start swapping stories of Superintendent transfer.  Failing in one district is just an opportunity to fail upwards at this job class.  The examples are so legion - Arlene Ackermann, Alfonso Anaya...I could go on, but you get the point.  There's no chance these guys won't vest and pull down big pensions somewhere.

CalSTRS is trying to head off massive pension cuts for all pensioners, current and future.  What with the bad recent returns (a relic of short-term crazy, long-term loss investment strategies courtesy "market-oriented" and overpaid CalSTRS workers) and the difficulty they have in raising contributions (the Legislature has to approve it), they've made some suggestions for long-term solvency.  One of these would cap (with inflation adjustments) pensions at $147,000 annually.  This is an administrative-level pension; I know no teachers (and few principals) who earn that much.

However, the superintendents would like you to know that that is so, so mean.  They will set up their own pension system, or go bother CalPERS to let them in, or something.  I assume this is a threat because they pay in quite a bit given their large salaries, but I find it hard to believe that they aren't taking more than their contributions (no Superintendent starts out making big bucks; they start as teachers).  So I invite them cordially to go ahead and bug CalPERS.

The whole thing bothers me for any number of reasons, not the least of which is that the Superintendents are acting in their own interest against the interest of the teachers who are also counting on CalSTRS.  Yet again, leadership is lacking the courage they demand of their underlings.  A capped pension like CalSTRS proposes is not inadequate, but the possibility of sacrificing one penny is anathema.  Yet teachers are expected to take pay freezes and furloughs in stride.  When the District won't provide supplies, you do not see Superintendents at Target buying crayons. Their teachers will be, though.  Superintendents are willing to gripe to the state that funding is inadequate, but only over cozy meetings with the Governor.  The possibility of refusing to approve a budget within state guidelines, of calling a wildcat strike, of demanding that California fully fund schools - that kind of conduct makes it unlikely a Superintendent will get to hobnob with bigwigs, and therefore they won't engage in it.

In the end, if CalSTRS is legislated out of existence or fails financially, teachers will suffer.  Something tells me Superintendents will do just fine.

No comments: