State might look at teacher retirement plans in lame duck session

Tom Burns is a retired teacher. He spent his life educating, and loved every minute of it. But he's stopped telling people they should go into teaching.

"Most of us that went into it, we liked what we were doing," explains a somber Burns in the capitol, "and you got paid a decent wage--you never got rich, but you knew at the end you were going to have a pension so you could at least live at the edge of the middle class."

He's not the only one. JoAnn Royce says teachers across the state are discouraged with the possibility of new employees not accessing a pension-like retirement.

"It's that slippery slope," Royce says. "If they take it away from the new hires, what will happen to the people who have been teaching for 10 years? 20 years? Or are retirees?"

That's why Republicans like Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley want the senate and house to take the time to make sure the right decision is made, and possibly wait until next session.

"I don't know whether or not an issue this big can be seen through to fruition in that small period of time," states Calley, "but the fact that it is up for serious consideration and there's a lot of discussion around it is a positive thing."

Senate Republicans want to move more quickly.

"This issue has been studied for years," claims Republican senator Rick Jones of Grand Ledge, "because we know there's a huge liability out there of billions of dollars. So we have to be very careful to make sure future teachers, perhaps, will have to look at a 401K like all state employees, like all legislators."

But house and senate Democrats say they will do whatever they can to stop the bill from being pushed through in the lame duck so the proposal can get adequate discussion next session.