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 top stories about pensions and retirement security from the previous week.

Payroll Issues Present Issues in Alaska

In a troubling development, Alaska’s labor union, representing 8,000 state employees, has filed a grievance over severe payroll issues. Chronic understaffing among state payroll workers has led to hundreds of incorrect payments for its members, ranging from delayed paychecks to partial payments throughout the year. The Alaska State Employees Association / AFSCME Local 52 is now urging the state to address these persistent concerns. Despite numerous complaints from state employees, many of which have gone unanswered for months, the state’s payroll department, responsible for 14,000 employees, has struggled with a high vacancy rate, reaching nearly 45% in some months. The union’s primary demand is for the state to respond to all pay-related notices and provide compensation to those affected, as stipulated in the union contract. This problem is attributed to management issues and the strain on overworked employees, emphasizing the need for a resolution to this pressing crisis. Reinstating public pensions is a key piece of the puzzle, providing much-needed stability for state employees and a crucial step toward resolving these systemic issues.

Charting a Course: Alaska’s Playbook to Tackle Teacher Shortages

In an attempt to address Alaska’s ongoing teacher turnover issue, the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development has introduced a valuable resource: the Teacher Recruitment and Retention Playbook. This online tool, released in September, offers a comprehensive guide to schools, districts, communities, and elected officials to combat the state’s high teacher turnover rate.

The playbook addresses various pathways for enhancing teacher recruitment and retention, including easing recertification standards and reintroducing defined benefits. 

This focus on improving retirement benefits underscores the significance of reinstating pensions, which can serve as a key incentive for teachers to stay in the profession and within the state. As Sally Stockhausen, a board member, noted, it’s essential that this playbook doesn’t become another forgotten document on a shelf but leads to actionable change.

Alaska’s Call for Transformation

In an op-ed for Anchorage Daily News, Madeline Holdorf and Teresa Holt underscore the critical importance of retaining Alaskans in the state. Alaska’s senior population has the fastest-growing senior population per capita rate among all 50 states. This demographic shift isn’t just a statistic; it’s an economic force. Retiree pension spending, an integral part of this trend, doesn’t merely support thousands of jobs; it also supports the local economy with billions of dollars in economic output.

To sustain this growth and create an appealing environment for future generations, Holdorf and Holt stress the importance of defined-benefit pensions for public employees. Public pensions bridge wage gaps, enhance recruitment and retention and reduce reliance on public assistance.

Senate Bill 88 stands as a promising solution to address Alaska’s public service challenges. Reinstating the public pension system, not only enhances the appeal of Alaska as a place to work, live, age, and retire but also ensures the retention of Alaskans within the state.

A Temporary Fix For Michigan’s Teacher Shortages

A recent Michigan law, House Bill 4752, is offering retired educators an opportunity to return to the classroom under specific circumstances without jeopardizing their pensions. This legislation, which received bipartisan support in the state house and senate, allows retired educators to fill temporary vacancies in local school districts while still receiving their retirement pensions and health care benefits.

To qualify, retired educators must either wait at least six consecutive months before taking a new position or, if they rejoin a local school district in less than six months, their earnings in that position must not exceed $15,100 in a calendar year. The law aims to ease the burden on local school districts facing temporary staffing shortages while providing experienced educators an avenue to continue contributing.

Before this new law, retired educators had to wait nine months before returning to work at a school to retain their pension benefits. This legislation is only a temporary step in addressing the teacher shortage issue in Michigan. Public pensions are a crucial solution to addressing teacher shortages within the state. 

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.