To the Editor:
Wading into the debate over defined-benefit public-pension systems is complex. Two points regarding the article on St. Louis’ defined-benefit pension plans (“Retirement Headaches Take Root,” June 5, 2013), in which I was quoted extensively:
First, the enrollment of the St. Louis public schools has been increasing because of the closing of six charters schools last year and two others the year before, and the increase of pre-K enrollment to approximately 2,200 students (the overwhelming majority of whom have moved on to kindergarten). That increase and the increase in the number of public school employees, as well as charter school teachers, reflect a climb in overall enrollment (and new members of the pension fund).
Because the pension fund covers employees of the St. Louis public schools and the city’s charter schools, the chart accompanying your article should have included charter school enrollment and charter employers’ pension contributions to give a clearer picture. Including charters, the total projected public school enrollment of students for 2013-14 is 37,347 —more students equals more employees equals more members of the pension fund.
Second, the Public School Retirement System of the City of St. Louis is doing just fine, thank you. With a market value of nearly $1 billion, the system has a 9.3 percent investment return for one year and 9 percent over three years. In the first quarter of 2013, the fund ranked in the top 48 percent of similar funds, and it served its 10,580 active and retired members very well (even through the recent recession).
The recent attempt to privatize the school retirement system is a disservice to the loyal employees and the public trust. Taxpayers and the community benefit from a stable, professionally run defined-benefit fund. If it ain’t broke?
St. Louis, Mo.
The writer is a former elected trustee of the Public School Retirement System of the City of St. Louis and currently serves as the director of an American Federation of Teachers Innovation Fund pre-K grant. He is the co-chairman of aft St. Louis Local 420’s committee on public education.
A version of this article appeared in the July 11, 2013 edition of Education Week as St. Louis Pension System ‘Doing Just Fine’