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.

Efforts to protect the North Dakota Public Employees Retirement System (NDPERS) continued, as HB 1040 passed through the House of Representatives and a hearing took place in the Senate State and Local Government Committee on Thursday. In a letter to the editor published in the Bismarck Tribune, Justin Dauenhauer–a private-sector union member–advocated for the retirement security of North Dakota’s public employees, saying he “will always support employee pension programs in all business sectors.” Emphasizing the crucial role pensions play in the recruitment and retention of public employees, Dauenhauer says, “In this current era, it is almost impossible to find loyal, skilled, and eager workers. In order to recruit and keep strong employees, it’s time to refocus on who makes your operations run.” Appearing in person to oppose HB 1040 and stand on the side of public employees, NPPC Executive Director Kendal Killian addressed North Dakota State Senators directly, saying, “It will jeopardize public servants’ retirement security, and threaten the state’s economic stability–and with it the North Dakota way of life.”

In Connecticut, lawmakers are considering SB 935, which would compel municipalities to offer police and firefighters pension benefits through participation in the Municipal 5 Employees Retirement System. Eva Zymaris with WTNH reported on the bill’s public hearing in front of the Public Safety and Security Committee this week, noting that improving recruitment and retention is the fundamental goal of the bill. Public safety applications have bottomed out in the state. “When I first applied, 16-17 years ago, we used to have thousands of applications,” said Assistant New Haven Police Chief David Zannelli. “That’s been reduced to hundreds.” It’s no secret that pensions are an efficient recruitment and retention tool, filling vacancies that will not only protect communities at risk but also provide significant economic impact–$6.8 billion in Connecticut’s case. 

Lastly, this week we saw a lot of news activity relating to a new, misleading study from the Equable Institute detailing the rising costs of teacher pensions in the United States, and inferring that these costs come at the expense of public school students. We saw articles in Cheif Investment Officer and Education Week, hyping up Equable’s inflammatory rhetoric, using the same old scare tactics in an attempt  to rob hard-working public servants, like the teachers we rely on to educate the future leaders of this country, of the retirement benefits they deserve. Equable’s Anthony Randazzo and Jonathan Moody write, “Rarely can we draw a direct line between increased pension costs and a specific child’s learning loss, concerning teacher retention numbers, or the lack of mental health resources in schools. But we don’t even have to have such an explicit link to know that growing teacher benefit costs are putting negative pressure on K–12 budgets.” 

In essence, Equable is conceding to a scarcity mindset and pitting students against their own teachers. We need to expand the pie, not fight over the crumbs. We invite Equable to work with teachers to push for the resources our children deserve. Instead of joining a constructive effort to address the fundamental funding challenges schools face, the Equble Institute insists on sowing division and scapegoating teachers, turning them into a villain in the push for adequate per pupil spending. 
Be sure to check back next Friday for the latest news in the fight for a secure retirement!