All eyes are on California this week as the state Supreme Court hears oral arguments challenging what is known as the California Rule (“State’s justices consider pension disputes,” Los Angeles Times, Dec. 6). Three cases – the Marin, Tri-county and CalFire – relate to reductions in retirement benefits made by the Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act of 2012.
The California Rule protects only vested benefits, which cannot be reduced without mutual agreement from the employee. (Non-vested benefits are not covered.) But the state Legislature can still modify the promised benefits over objections from employees.
If the California Supreme Court rules in favor of the three plaintiffs, it will be the final straw in destroying attempts to recruit and retain the best and the brightest to the teaching profession. Morale is already at an all-time low, as attacks on teachers and their unions intensify, coupled with ever growing responsibilities.
One of the attractions of making teaching a career is that practitioners can look forward to a secure retirement. Once that security is abolished, what else is next? Teaching is not intended for those who seek affluence. But the reward of working with young people is not sufficient to induce college graduates to a classroom career. I hope the court keeps the California Rule in place, but I wouldn’t bet the ranch on it.
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