As Soaring Pension Debt Eats Budgets, Teacher Says Reform ‘Makes No Sense’

On public radio website he suggests Republican pension reformers are ‘pathological’

Since 2010, South Lyon Community Schools teacher Keith Kindred has written commentaries for the Michigan Radio website, talking about education from a teacher’s vantage point.

With Michigan’s underfunded school pension system in the headlines, Kindred’s latest commentary asks why legislative leaders want to give new school employees their own retirement fund contributions rather than continue to sign them up for lifetime government pensions.

“Still, the Republican leadership’s relentless drive to take out that anger on our union and its members is illogical, at best, and perhaps pathological. Their recent attempt to dismantle the teacher pension system, for example, simply makes no sense,” Kindred wrote.

ForTheRecord says: Since 2010, when Kindred first start writing for Michigan Radio, the South Lyon school district he works for has seen its required contributions to the pension fund rise from $3.2 million to $10.4 million in 2016. That’s a $7.2 million increase.

The $10.4 million contribution — most of which goes to catch up on past underfunding — represented 14.2 percent of the school district’s entire general fund budget. This is the budget that provides money for daily operating expenses, including teacher salaries.

Kindred earned $78,829 last year. This year, South Lyon has 496 teachers. If the pension burden had stayed the same as it was in 2010, each teacher could have received a $14,500 bonus this year.

Instead, the money went into a school retirement system whose debts have been rising, not going down. It’s also a system that may leave more than half of new teachers with nothing because they don’t remain on the job for 10 years.