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Teachers, Current And Future, React to Possible Pension Changes

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“I think any hit to our profession is something we want to avoid,” says Brian Guiney.

A bill in the state senate has many Northern Michigan teachers, and future teachers, concerned.

A legislative committee in the senate approved a measure to close the pension system to newly hired school employees in Michigan, replacing it with a 401-k.

The full senate still has to vote on the bill.

9 and 10’s Megan Atwood talked to current and future educators about the potential change.

“If this indeed makes teaching a less attractive profession for people who really want to do the job, then I think that’s a bad thing,” says Brian Guiney, a current teacher in Northern Michigan.

A bill that may eliminate school pension programs has many teachers, like Betty Leuenberger who taught for 47 years, concerned about such a big change.

“The biggest effect that I see is the lack of money coming into the fund. that we have all these teachers that are collecting from the retirement fund which now there is no more money coming in so it’s no longer lucrative,” says Leuenberger who just retired last year.

The bill wouldn’t remove current employees from the pension program but new employees wouldn’t contribute and would have to rely solely on their own 401-k’s in retirement. Brian Guiney has taught across Northern Michigan for 21 years and says lawmakers may want to take a second look.

Guiney says, “I would just encourage lawmakers to do a lot of homework and talk to school superintendents and talk to school business managers and get their perspective. If it’s a draw back then maybe it’s one less reason to peruse teaching.”

And students studying education here at NMC are also concerned about the impacts this bill may have if it passes through.

“It’s a big shocker. Obviously I don’t think it would be a good thing for incoming teachers and current teachers. It’s taking away money for when they retire. Teachers should be more appreciated because we are teaching the kids of tomorrow,” says Alyssa Wycoff, an early childhood education major at Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City.

The bill must still pass through the house and senate and the governor has expressed opposition to it.