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Publications & Media

Learn more about Bellwether’s work by reading our publications, news articles, press releases, and case studies.

  • Publication
    Chad Aldeman

    Most Americans depend on their Social Security benefits to lead a comfortable and secure retirement. And yet not all workers can count on Social Security.

    Due to a historical quirk, many state and local government employees lack the retirement and social safety net offered by Social Security. Public school teachers constitute one of the largest groups of uncovered workers. Nationwide, approximately 1.2 million active teachers (about 40 percent of all public K-12 teachers) are not covered. Those teachers are concentrated in 15 states (Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Texas) and the District of Columbia, where many or all public school teachers neither pay into nor receive benefits from Social Security.

    In theory, Congress has created rules to protect those workers from inadequate retirement savings. However, in a new report, author Chad Aldeman shows that the theory is far from reality. The rules governing retirement plans, like the ones enrolling 90 percent of teachers, leave teachers who stay in the classroom less than 15 or 20 years with inadequate benefits. While the current rule is easy for state policymakers to follow, it ignores many other variables, such as contribution rates and interest, that materially affect the retirement benefits workers eventually receive. Worse, the current provisions offer better protections for the highest-paid, longest-serving workers at the expense of the most vulnerable workers.

    This situation is not trivial. In addition to millions of active workers who aren’t covered by Social Security, there are currently about 20 million retirees who performed some government service as non-covered employees. Many of those workers are now facing a lower standard of living in retirement due to the flaws in these seemingly arcane rules.

    In "Social Security, Teacher Pensions, and the ‘Qualified’ Retirement Plan Test," Aldeman outlines the history of Social Security benefits in the public sector, describes the current rule and how it is intended to work, and then shows its limitations. As a concrete example, he analyzes the retirement plans covering approximately 1.2 million active public school teachers in the 15 states and the District of Columbia that do not offer universal Social Security coverage for teachers. The report concludes with suggestions about how to protect these workers going forward.

    Title image for Bellwether publication

  • Publication
    Chad Aldeman
    Andrew J. Rotherham

    Fed up with stagnant salaries, teachers have gone on strike all across the country over the past few years. Meanwhile, education spending is hitting all-time highs — but, by and large, the money isn’t going to teacher salaries.

  • Publication
    Chad Aldeman
    Marisa Vang

    Insufficient: How State Pension Plans Leave Teachers With Inadequate Retirement Savings” establishes a framework to compare teacher retirement plans against an “adequate” annual retirement savings threshold. After defining those thresholds, the paper measures how the typical defined benefit (DB) plan covering public school teachers stacks up.

  • Publication
    Bonnie O'Keefe
    Melissa Steel King
    Chad Aldeman

    "An Uneven Path: Student Achievement in Boston Public Schools 2007-2017" finds that Boston students outperform their peers in other cities on performance tests, but that a decade of tight budgets, aging facilities, and persistent achievement gaps in the city have narrowed Boston’s lead over its peers.

  • Publication
    Max Marchitello
    Kirsten Schmitz
    Chad Aldeman

    Most educators are women, and yet male educators outearn women in terms of annual salaries and retirement benefits. Given that school districts typically operate with uniform salary schedules that, on their face, appear neutral, it may be surprising to see gaps emerge along gender and racial lines.

  • Publication
    Chad Aldeman

    School districts across the country are reporting difficulties in hiring high-quality teachers, and states are being asked to respond. Our new slide deck, "Teacher Supply and Demand: How States Track Shortage Areas," surveys the landscape of how states track information on teacher supply and demand.

  • Publication
    Chad Aldeman
    Anne Hyslop
    Max Marchitello
    Jennifer O'Neal Schiess
    Kaitlin Pennington

    The 2015 passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) ushered in a new era for state accountability systems. ESSA provided states an opportunity to help all students succeed by rethinking both how they identify schools that need to improve, and how those schools might be improved. The law requires states to submit a formal plan to the Department of Education for peer review and then begin implementing that plan in the 2017-18 school year. Read our findings after reviewing the accountability plans for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

  • Publication
    Chad Aldeman and Paulina S. Diaz Aguirre

    Years of irresponsible budgeting practices have left the Teachers’ Retirement System of Louisiana (TRSL) almost $12 billion in debt. Without significant reforms, Louisiana’s pension problems are likely to get worse, with further negative consequences for workers and schools.

  • Media

    The 74 Million --  At a time when our teacher workforce is going through the same aging process as the rest of our country, it’s worth asking why we still have pension plans in place that push out veteran teachers.

  • Publication
    Chad Aldeman
    Max Marchitello

    Following the first ESSA plan submissions to the U.S. Department of Education in April 2017, Bellwether Education Partners — in partnership with the Collaborative for Student Success — convened a group of 30 education experts to independently review 17 state accountability plans. During the review, the experts, who represented national and state perspectives from both sides of the aisle, identified best practices in providing a strong statewide accountability system that will help ensure a high-quality education for all students.

    Because the first round of reviews was designed to help provide important context for the remaining state plans being submitted in September 2017, we conducted interim reviews of draft plans released by California and New York, using the same rubric and a process that closely mirrored our first set of reviews. We recognize that these pre-reviews represent a snapshot in time and that the states may make revisions prior to formally submitting their plans to the U.S. Department of Education. Given the size of California and New York’s diverse student populations, as well as their geographic diversity, we felt that feedback on their draft plans was important in not only strengthening these state’s final submissions, but also in providing information for other states still writing their plans.

    We intend to conduct full reviews of all second-round states following their final submissions in September.

    Read our reviews of the draft California and New York state plans here.

  • Media

    New America -- Without consideration of the developmentally critical early years, a school accountability system reflects a limited view of educational quality.

  • Media

    Education Next - As states and cities turn the page on that particular set of reforms, I wanted to pause and reflect on what we can learn from the last eight years.

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