Questions and Answers About Teacher Pension Plans, Boston Charter Schools, and Guns in Schools

Can we fix teacher pension plans? In a new piece for Education Next, I show it is possible for pension plans to offer adequate benefits to all workers, but it would require states to re-examine their current offerings:

There are two basic ways states could accomplish this. One would be to significantly increase the generosity of current plans. But to reach our adequacy thresholds this way, states would have to increase benefits substantially, essentially doubling the cost of their current plans.

Alternatively, there are cost-neutral ways for defined benefit plans to provide adequate benefits to all workers, but states would have to radically restructure their current plans.

Check out the full piece for more detail.

Can Boston’s charter sector scale up effectively? Apparently yes. The authors note that beginning teachers in Boston charter schools don’t suffer through the same steep learning curve that teachers in Boston’s traditional schools do, and they find that “the charter sector reduces variation in teacher effectiveness within schools, which may be due to charters’ centralized management of teachers and standardized instructional practices.”

On Twitter, Cory Koedel asked what would happen to school district insurance premiums if they started allowing employees to carry guns into schools. Here’s a good overview from Milliman, and one telling anecdote from Kansas:

At least 24 states across the country have policies that allow security personnel to carry weapons in schools, and at least nine states have policies that allow other school employees to do the same. But how could these laws affect school districts’ insurance policies and coverage? It’s not quite so easy, as the state of Kansas found out when it passed a law in 2013 allowing school staff to carry guns, and an insurer that covers most districts in the state subsequently issued a letter denying coverage to schools that took on this risk. Five years later, no Kansas school employee has carried a gun into a K-12 school.

Basically, insurance companies may play a quiet but important role in this policy question. Insurance companies are having a similar effect on school district and university decisions about whether they can afford to field football teams.

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman