Why changes to retirement plan is rallying teachers in Colorado

DENVER -- More than 10,000 teachers are expected to walk off the job Thursday and Friday in Colorado and rally at the state Capitol.

The two big issues teachers are discussing are teacher funding and possible changes to pension plans.

Lawmakers have said they are working on increasing teacher funding, but local school boards control pay. However, changes to retirement plans is a different story.

What is PERA?

PERA is the Public Employees Retirement Association. It is widely known as being unstable going forward and as a result lawmakers are looking at changes.

"We are one of the five states with the worst PERA," Gov. John Hickenlooper said Tuesday.

Already teachers contribute 8 percent of their pay to PERA. A House bill would keep that contribution in place, however a Senate bill would raise it to 11 percent.

There is also a proposal to convert it to a 401(k)-style system.

Teacher retirement age

Currently, teachers can retire based off their years of service and current age. Every teacher has a different number of years they need.

A proposed bill would make it so new teachers hired after 2020 could only retire at age 60.

"I'm looking at all factors," Hickenlooper said when asked if he would consider raising the retirement age from the standard 58.

Taxpayer dollars

Lawmakers appear poised to inject new money into PERA, but how much is the right number?

As Hickenlooper said, there are some concerns taxpayers, who don't benefit from PERA, are injecting too much money.

"A worker gets paid 50 grand a year. The state is putting in another 20 percent? Nobody on the outside gets that," Hickenlooper said.

What does the teachers' union say?

The Colorado Education Association has expressed concern about increasing contributions and converting any part of PERA to a 401(k)-style plan.

The teachers' union has backed raising the retirement age slightly. Although, again, the final number is far from settled.

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