The hefty pricetag of teacher pensions has emerged as a major political flashpoint this election season. In Texas, a controversy over the state’s teachers’ retirement system appears to have ended, with prosecutors saying they found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
Gov. Rick Perry’s opponent in the gubernatorial race, Democrat Bill White, had publicly accused the Republican incumbent of “selling our teachers’ retirement fund to further his own political career,” and questioned whether the governor’s pension board appointees had encouraged improper investments. The Teacher Retirement System of Texas has 1.3 million members, and it has net assets of $88 billion.
A memo by the pension fund’s investment director had accused the system’s chief investment officer of making investments to satisfy its board members, who had been appointed by Perry, the Houston Chronicle reported.
But a representative of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office told the paper this week that investigators were not able to identify any criminal violations, and that the case is closed. “We wouldn’t reopen this case unless new facts come to life,” the prosecutor said.
We should note that the retirement system also conducted its own investigation and found no evidence of improper influence by pension board trustees, who are Perry appointees, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
White seems undeterred, issuing a press release saying “Legal or illegal, milking retired teachers is wrong.” I’ll give Perry the last word for now. His spokesman retorted that the affair shows that his opponent is “a desperate candidate who will say and do anything.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.