The Senate Education Committee Tuesday approved a bill that would abolish the early retirement fund for public school teachers in the state.
“We don’t have a similar retirement program for any of our other state or local government workers,” Sen. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d'Alene, said to the other committee members. “It begs the question why we are continuing to do this with teachers specifically.”
According to figures from the Idaho Department of Education, the state spends approximately $3.6 million to fund Idaho’s early retirement program for teachers. Tom Luna, state superintendent of public instruction, did not budget money to fund the program in his 2013-14 budget proposals, saying he would prefer to spend that money on other education programs.
Rep. Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, chairman of the House Education Committee, supports the measure as well, and has noted that “we have not found that there has been a mad rush for the door” among teachers who wish to take advantage of the program.
During approximately 30 minutes of testimony, Robin Nettinga, spokesperson for the Idaho Education Association, testified against the bill. Nettinga cited the example of a young woman who enters a teaching career, leaves to raise children and then returns to the profession in her 40s. Without the early retirement program, the teacher in this scenario would need to remain on the job well into to her 80s to qualify for pension benefits. Nettinga argued that this would cost the state more money than funding the early retirement program.
“I agree that this bill will cost Idaho more than it will save,” said Sen. Branden Durst, D-Boise. “I cannot, and will not support it.”
The bill passed in committee by a vote of 6-2 along partisan party lines, with Durst and Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb, D-Boise, voting no.
The bill will now go before the full Senate.