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

NPPC Highlight

In case you missed it, NPPC closed out Black History Month with a blog by Ariel McConnell, sharing the history of how the public sector and pensions provided a path to equality for  Black workers. Public employment has long been an opportunity for equity and economic mobility for Black families and communities.  As early as 1802, state, local, and government jobs were among the first to open their doors to African American workers. Public sector jobs dismantled structural racism within the worplace and created pathways to the middle class for many Black families–giving them access to decent pay, good health care, pension benefits, and job stability that Black workers are rarely given equal access to in the private sector. 

State News

 It’s been nearly two decades since the close of Alaska’s Public Pension System. The lack of secure retirement benefits has had disastrous effects on Alaska schools. In an op-ed for Anchorage Daily News, newly elected legislators Jesse Bjorkman, Maxine Dibert, and Rebecca Himschoot expressed the importance of fixing the recruitment and retention issues affecting Alaska schools. At the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year, there were more than 400 teacher vacancies across the state. Low wages and insufficient retirement benefits have been the leading cause of Alaska’s struggle to recruit and retain passionate, qualified educators. Many of them leave the profession or leave the state seeking better benefits. 

To resolve the problem,  Alaska legislators rolled out a bill this week creating a new pension plan for public employees. Senate Bill 88, introduced by Republican Sen. Cathy Giessel of Anchorage, would allow current state employees to switch from their current 401(k)-style system into the newly created defined benefit plan. 

One in five Alaska state jobs are currently vacant. Another sponsor of the bill, Senator Click Bishop, R-Fairbanks, said the legislation would aid in reversing the recruitment challenge. “You bring this back, and I do think our recruitment problems will start to lessen,” Bishop said.

NPPC has spoken time and time again on the importance of defined-benefit pensions for educators and its role in reversing the shrinking pipeline of new educators. Without educators to fill vital positions, students will suffer and continue to be deprived of the education they deserve. Legislators should look for ways to address the long-standing concern surrounding teachers’ pay and benefits in Alaska. The future of education depends on it.

Lastly, a new bill passed out of Senate Approptiations Committee in Oklahoma that seeks to improve the recruitment of law enforcement officers in small-town police departments. SB 1095 would allow retired officers to return to work full-time while keeping their retirement benefits. Currently, returning retirees are only permitted to work up to 25 hours a week. If passed, the bill would allow cities with a population of 4,000 or less hire retired police officers over the age of 45. 

Be sure to check back next Friday for the latest in the fight for a secure retirement! For now, sign up for NPPC News Clips to receive daily pension news from across the country directly to your inbox.