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Teacher Pensions

By Elizabeth Cryan Photography with permission from Donnell-Kay Foundation at Rocky Mountain Prep school

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The vast majority of our nation’s 3.3 million public school teachers participate in a traditional pension plan managed by their state or local government. Unfortunately, the design of those plans leaves too many teachers with inadequate benefits. Over half of today’s new teachers will not stay in a single pension system long enough to qualify for a minimum pension when they retire. Making matters worse, 40 percent of public school teachers lack Social Security coverage.

In contrast to most of the public debate on pensions, which centers on funding issues, our work focuses on analyzing how well current plans serve the teacher workforce. We also encourage policymakers to think strategically about pensions as part of teachers’ overall compensation package, and provide data and analysis to help them do so. Through our affiliated website Teacherpensions.org, we provide high-quality analysis and commentary to help stakeholders understand the teacher pension issue and the trade-offs among various options for reform. Our work makes the issues more accessible and relevant to the general public, more compelling to policymakers, and more understandable for current teachers.

The content below reflects our work on this issue:



August 31, 2021
Max Marchitello, Andrew J. Rotherham, Juliet Squire
"One of the fundamental beliefs underlying Bellwether’s analysis is that teacher pension plans serve some teachers very well, but they don’t serve...
May 7, 2021
Chad Aldeman, Brandon Lewis
Do employees at public colleges and universities have better retirement benefits than K-12 employees? This is the central question in the new report...
December 7, 2020
Chad Aldeman, Anthony Randazzo
In “Are Texas Teacher Retirement Benefits Adequate?,” authors Chad Aldeman and Anthony Randazzo analyze the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) of...
November 12, 2020
Chad Aldeman
Ohio is one of only seven states to give teachers and other education employees a choice over their retirement plan. Early in their employment, they...
March 5, 2020
Chad Aldeman
In response to financial pressures, the New York State Assembly has created new, less-generous retirement plans for teachers and other educators....


November 2, 2020
Collectively, retirements of teachers and other education employees dropped 5% this year in Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Kentucky, Massachusetts,...
September 28, 2020
Democrats are known for outlining detailed plans to address societal problems—so it’s no surprise that Joe Biden’s campaign has a plan to protect...
May 19, 2020
Working with stakeholders around the country has made me certain only about uncertainty. The impact of COVID-19 in a few months or a few years seems...


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August 12, 2021
Bellwether Education Partners
Join Ahead of the Heard for a lively back-to-school series expanding on Andy Rotherham’s original Eduwonk post, What’s Your Magic Wand?,...
April 13, 2020
Chad Aldeman
If COVID-19 causes an economic downturn anything like the last one, that means bad news for Nebraska’s teacher pension plan. In a new piece...
February 26, 2020
Chad Aldeman
Teachers are relatively risk-averse compared to other professionals, but the pension plans covering 90 percent of teachers are taking...