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Palm Beach County educators oppose proposal to end pension plan for new teachers

Critics argue bill moving through state Senate would jeopardize retirement system
Posted at 9:15 PM, Apr 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-22 21:15:00-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A bill moving through the Florida Senate aims to end pensions for new teachers enrolling after June of next year, angering some Palm Beach County educators who believe it puts the entire state retirement system in jeopardy.

Jacqueline Major is in the 29th year of her teaching career.

"Nobody goes into education to get rich," the Palm Beach County school teacher said.

In the last few years, she said, teachers have been tested by mass shooting drills, a pandemic, virtual learning and now a threat to future teacher pensions.

"I never thought I'd see the day where I don't think I would recommend to young people thinking of coming into teaching to do it in Florida," Major said.

SB 84 proposes ending pensions for eligible employees enrolling after June 2022 but excluding special-risk class members like police officers and firefighters for being first responders.

Jacqueline Major, Palm Beach County teacher now discouraging new teachers from finding work in Florida
"I never thought I'd see the day where I don't think I would recommend to young people thinking of coming into teaching to do it in Florida," Palm Beach County teacher Jacqueline Major says.

"No one's looking at how much of a first responder the teacher really is," Palm Beach County teacher Donald Persson said.

A teacher in Palm Beach County for 39 years, Perssons said he's a first responder to his students every day, tasked with not only educating them, but being responsible for their safety on campus.

"The people who suffer the most will be the children we service when the best and brightest who want to go into education say, 'I just can’t afford to do it,'" Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association President Justin Katz said.

Katz said if SB 84 becomes law, it would give teachers no other options than to enroll in investment plans and the pension program itself would be in jeopardy.

"The problem is, and it's shown in other states where this has been done, that if you take out contributors from the pension system and the money going into fund it disappears, that the whole system will collapse on itself," Katz said.

He's asking parents, teachers and school district employees all over the state to contact their senators and representatives to stop this bill from moving through the chambers.

"It goes to show you where we sit as educators in the pecking order of importance with politicians," Major said.