PERA to blame for school-funding shortfall

I applaud Elizabeth Testa and her very noble undertaking to raise money for Durango School District 9-R (Herald, March 30). I fully agree with her that cutting programs, either curricular or extracurricular, would be a shame and a travesty. It was ironic, though that she noted lawmakers “reinterpreted” Amendment 23, for it is past corrupt lawmakers who are the driving force behind this shortfall. To receive financial support and endorsements from the Colorado Education Association, as well as other public unions and groups, these legislators sold their political souls and created overly generous and unrealistic retirement packages to be paid through PERA. Full disclosure, I taught for 11 years in Pueblo, after teaching at the Catholic High School in Las Vegas for 20 years.

When I was explained the benefits, I thought this is not possible without somebody drawing the short straw, and as usual, that was the taxpayer. (My PERA benefits are equal to my 30 qualifying years of Social Security benefits.) Even though PERA slightly scaled back these benefits a few years ago, school districts (taxpayers) are required to contribute an additional 14 percent of district employees’ salaries to PERA. Compare this to the 6.2 percent paid in to Social Security by private employers. Making this contribution more realistic – perhaps 8 percent to match what school employees contribute to PERA would be a big help. Considering that the district’s yearly payroll is well into the tens of millions, a 6 percent savings would more than cover the current shortfall. Now, I do not wish to discourage any people from contributing, for this would be most generous, and this predicament is not the district’s fault. Perhaps, though, voters should remember this situation next November when voting, for we all know which political party panders to unions, both public and private.

Robert Goodrich

Bayfield

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