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Lawmakers, teachers clash over Texas pension funds

Teacher's groups and Texas lawmakers are continuing to debate the future of the state pension fund, which reports indicate may face funding shortfalls in the future. Texas legislators have proposed a plan to cut pensions for teachers in order to close budget gaps. There has also been a suggestion to switch future teachers over to a 401(k) plan like those popular in the private sector, rather than continuing to commit to pensions.

State lawmakers reviewed a report in August that detailed the finances of the pension fund. Some studies showed that the fund would last until 2075 without any changes. There were conflicting reports over whether switching to a 401(k) plan would be beneficial.

A spokesperson for the Texas Classroom Teacher's Association told reporters that altering the pension plan would affect the overall incentive to become a teacher in the state, since the retirement benefits are fairly generous and offer a lifetime guarantee, which is better than many private sector 401(k) accounts can offer.

Pension funds are just one element of the complex employment contracts that many public and private sector workers enter into. For public sector workers, some elements of those contracts have come into question as many states including Texas face long term budget deficits. While it is important to maintain a balanced budget, it is also crucial that the rights of Texas public sector workers are respected and that their employment contracts are fully enforced. Pensions and other benefits such as healthcare and vacation time are all important elements of employment contracts. Public sector workers who may have had their rights under an employment contract violated may be able to recover from the state for lost benefits.

Source: The Huntsville Item, "Walker County's retired teachers challenge lawmakers over pensions," Tori Brock, Sept. 30, 2012.

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