So now that my son is graduating, I have a reason to question whether I want to continue in this job. Prior to teaching I'd never held a job for more than a couple years; even in the three years I spent in the army I held several different positions. Now I've been in the same classroom for 11 years. It's something I consider.
It's not that I don't like teaching, I do. It's just that I'm kind of bored with it. And no, changing what I teach or changing to Common Core standards isn't the kind of change I need. I need change. It doesn't have to be immediate--again, I don't hate what I'm doing--but I don't want to spend the next 13-15 years doing exactly the same thing. I don't know what; if I did, I'd go do it. But before too long something needs to change.
And with stories like this one impossible to ignore, should that be an impetus?
California discovered a $2.4 billion budget surplus from what it projected in January, but that money won’t be going to any new, exciting program. It won’t support the state’s transition to new academic standards. It won’t be going to expand kindergarten or offer pre-k to 4-year-olds. Governor Jerry Brown has other plans. He wants the money to go toward paying down the state’s debt, especially the $74 billion unfunded liability from the state’s teacher pension plan (CalSTRS).
To be clear, this is undoubtedly the right move for California. Governor Brown deserves credit for recognizing the problem and resisting calls for new spending when the state has such significant debts. Brown’s pension funding proposal is merely a plan at this point, and politicians don’t have a strong track record of fulfilling their pension promises. If Brown, future governors, or the state legislature aren’t able to stick to a long-term funding plan, the problems will only get worse.
The current debt, and the plan to pay it down, are simply staggering. In order to pay off the full debt over 30 years, Brown’s plan calls for increasing contribution rates across the board. Over a 7-year period, teacher contributions to the fund would rise from 8 to 10.25 percent of their salary. School district contributions would have to rise from 8.25 to 19.1 percent, and the state itself would contribute 8.8 percent, up from the current 5.5 percent. By 2021, nearly 40% of California teachers’ total compensation will go toward paying down the pension plan’s liabilities.