Teacher pensions are a huge and growing crisis waiting to explode without major reforms, warns a new report released Tuesday by an educational think tank.
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“Do the math on teacher pensions and it just doesn’t add up,” argues the National Council on Teacher Quality in its report, Doing the Math on Teacher Pensions. Total unfunded teacher pension liabilities in 2014 were a whopping $499 billion dollars, the group found. That amount is surging rapidly; in 2012, the total was just $394 billion, meaning that pension debt is growing by over $50 billion a year.
Some states are in a particularly huge hole. Illinois, for instance, has unfunded liabilities of $55 billion — a debt of over $27,000 for every student currently in its school system. In Alaska, per-student debt is over $25,000. Nationwide, the average burden is about $10,400 per student, and only one state, South Dakota, has a perfectly funded pension system with zero unfunded liabilities.