Thursday, January 07, 2010

Miller Links Teacher Pensions and Maintenance of Effort

Buried in a Washington Post article about the budget is this momentous passage:

One way to lighten the state's burden is to shift the rising cost of teacher pensions to local governments, said [Senate President Mike] Miller, a leading proponent of changing the system.

"Anyone who knows anything about basic accounting knows that the people who set the salaries should also be responsible for the pensions that are a result of the salaries," he said.

To mollify critics of such a move, lawmakers might agree to loosen a requirement that local governments fund their school systems at the same level per student as the previous fiscal year, Miller said.
Miller has been a proponent of passing down at least part of the teacher pension costs to the counties for some time. A bill he filed last year would have cost the counties nearly a billion dollars over four years. But now Miller is offering to ease Maintenance of Effort requirements that compel counties to maintain per-pupil spending in exchange for a pension handoff.

The combined effect of a county pension mandate and a loosening of public school spending requirements is easy to see: the counties will have a strong incentive to shift spending out of the classroom and towards pension obligations formerly covered by the state. That would have very serious consequences for public education.