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.

Here are our top stories:

Juneau looks to new recruitment strategies amid city worker shortage by Katie Anastas. Juneau, Alaska, is considering offering sign-on bonuses of up to $ 40,000 and enhancing retirement benefits to attract and retain more city workers. The city has experienced a severe shortage of bus drivers, forcing them to temporarily cancel some bus routes. Besides incentivizing candidates with bonuses, Finance Director Jeff Rogers recommends that employers match retirement contributions by employees hired since July 2006. Alaska’s state law dictates that employees in Tier IV of the Public Employees Retirement System have individual accounts that they pay into and can only take their accounts to a new job after five years.. City Manager, Rorie Watt, said, “We’re trying to replicate that hook that defined benefits employees have. They start to think about job changes, and they think, ‘If I stay longer, I’m incentivized.’” While sign-on bonuses can attract applicants, pensions remain the best recruitment and retention tool for public employees as they provide retirees with retirement security and are more cost-efficient for the economy. 

Kansas teacher shortage prompts calls for higher salaries, paying student teachers by Suzanne Perez. Kansas is among the many states experiencing alarming teacher shortages–currently standing at about 1,620 vacancies. However, a task force created by the Kansas Board of Regents has ideas on how the state could recruit and retain teachers. Potential solutions include raising teacher salaries, elevating the profession, and incentivizing student teachers by paying them for their time spent in the classroom. Rick Ginsburg, dean of education at the University of Kansas, said, “Part of the problem is our salaries in education stink. Add to that working conditions that are challenging, a public that is rather critical. … So what you end up with is something that is awfully challenging.” Ginsburg also mentioned that while education remains a relatively low-paying field, education students pay the same tuition as other students entering higher-paying occupations. In 2022, the National Institute on Retirement Security reported that 59% of educators find it difficult to repay student loan debt while also contributing to an emergency and retirement fund. The task force recommends expanding scholarship programs to help reduce college costs to, and paying students $5,000 for each semester they’re in the classroom. Conversation and action surrounding ways to grow the teacher pipeline are not only necessary but also crucial.

Missouri lawmakers are again looking for ways to raise teacher pay by Kate Grumke. Teacher pay is a major topic of conversation in Missouri and a top priority for the state’s legislature. House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, said Missouri teachers’ pay–which ranks 50th in the nation is, “disastrously low.” Last legislative session, Missouri lawmakers created a grant program to temporarily fund increases for Missouri’s lowest-paid teachers, effectively raising the minimum salary from $25,000 to $38,000. If the legislature does not support the grant program again, educators who previously received the grant will see a significant reduction in their salary next year. 

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