Welcome to the latest edition of This Week in Pensions! We have gathered the best stories about pensions and retirement security from the previous week. This is the news you need to know in the fight for a secure retirement.

Before diving into our top stories from this week, check out the newest stories of public employees helping their communities.

Steps to improve teacher recruitment, retention by Margaret Rick and Jan Hochadel. It’s been over three months since the school year started, and the country’s teacher shortage is not showing signs of slowing. Connecticut is no exception to the staffing crisis. In this op-ed, retired educator Margaret Rick and AFT Connecticut President and State Senator-Elect Jan Hochadel reiterate what we at NPPC already know: pensions can help grow the teacher pipeline. Public school educators in Connecticut face the same “teacher pay penalty” that’s present across the country–taking home less money than their private-sector counterparts. Combine that with the effects of the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP)–both of which can affect public retirees’ access to Social Security benefits–and teachers are left with the promise of a dismal financial future. However, providing defined-benefit pensions for teachers offers financial security in retirement and remains an essential tool in recruiting and retaining qualified employees.

A Rare Win in the Fight Against Dark Money by Jane Mayer. Last week, voters from all 15 counties in Arizona overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure that will require anonymous political donors–who are very often “dark money” groups–to display transparency in their identities. The Voters’ Right to Know Act specifies that donations over five thousand dollars made to a nonprofit that uses those funds on political advertising and spends more than fifty thousand dollars on a state campaign or ballot initiative are required by law to publicly disclose their identity. The law also applies if contributions come from a shell organization in an attempt to shield the name of the original donor. This move to stifle anonymized campaign spending in Arizona could set a precedent for more exposure of dark-money groups whose millions go beyond campaign contributions. NPPC is dedicated to fighting dark-money ventures that hurt public employees. 

City still faces gap in first responder pay, benefits by Nina Hernandez. Austin-Travis County, Texas EMS medics are finally about to receive similar compensation and pension benefits as their coworkers in the city’s other public safety agencies. The decision came at a November 7 City Council meeting where members of the Austin Police Department, Austin Fire Department, and Austin-Travis County EMS leadership spoke on the discrepancies in salary and benefits between the departments. Jordan Malone, who is two years into his career as a medic with the city, told the commission that by his calculations, he will have to work in an ambulance for 42 years before being able to retire. That time frame is closer to 25 years for fire and police. “Unfortunately, this is killing our retention and recruiting,” Malone said. “Especially in younger potential applicants.” The new resolution asks the city manager to compare pay quality, make the pension structures fairer, and consider city-funded education programs for public safety officers. 

Be sure to check back in next Friday for the latest news in the fight for a secure retirement