While the Alaska Senate says that we need to reduce the size and scope of government, Senate Bill 207 does nothing to reduce the size and scope of government. SB 207 simply shifts a higher portion of the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) contribution levels to all Alaska school districts.
Shifting costs from the state to the school districts is not aligned with their message that lawmakers are reducing the size and scope of Alaska’s government. They do not clarify that the costs of the TRS program was developed and adopted by our state Legislature and school districts had no part in setting up the TRS system. They do not clarify that the erosion of benefits in TRS tier three and four has been a significant factor in the teacher and administrator shortage we are currently experiencing statewide. This bill does not reduce the cost of the retirement programs that are constitutional obligations of our state. It just passes more of the cost to school districts and makes it even harder to hire and retain quality educators working for our youth.
It is disingenuous to hear that these bills are reducing the cost and size of government when they are only shifting the cost from the state to school districts. This bill, if passed, can only be implemented by reducing the number of teachers for students across our state.
School districts have been making cuts for a number of years now, and the magnitude of this proposed cost increase to school districts will assuredly reduce the number of teachers that districts are able to afford for our students. Therefore our youngest and most important resource, students, will pay the price rather than the state. This will have a significant negative impact upon individual students and our future statewide economy.
It’s pure negligence on the part of our Legislature to shift the cost to students when legislators haven’t introduced revenue generating bills to pay for systems the state developed, established and for which they are constitutionally obligated to pay for.