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Issue Explainer

Retirement Security

Everyone should be able to retire with dignity. Across the state, hundreds of thousands of public school employees rely on their pensions to ensure they can retire with security.
Julie Horwin
Published: 04/04/2022

AEA advocates for policies that protect and strengthen a secure retirement system for current, retired, and future school employees.

In addition to fair wages, reasonable benefits, and safe working conditions, every public school employee who works hard and plays by the rules should have access to a secure and dignified retirement.The best standard for a secure retirement includes Social Security, personal savings, and a defined benefit pension.

Public school employees' pension plan is administered by the Arizona State Retirement System (ASRS), which has provided retirement security for our state's public servants for more than 65 years. The ASRS serves more than a half-million members, including more than 100,000 retired members.

The ASRS pension is a defined-benefit plan. Most public employees pay into a defined benefit pension system. Workers contribute a portion of every paycheck—similar to how virtually all working Americans pay a portion of each paycheck into Social Security—to fund a pension system. Combined with the employer contributions, the pension system invests the funds and uses the returns to pay a defined amount of money each month that nurses, firefighters, teachers, and librarians can count on upon their retirement.

ASRS Helps Deliver Quality Education in Arizona

Defined benefit pensions play a fundamental role in retaining high-quality, experienced teachers in the classroom. These effective, experienced teachers are the most important school-based element that provides quality educational outcomes for our children.

A wide body of academic research on teacher productivity finds that teachers become more effective with experience. These studies demonstrate that experienced teachers have students who achieve at higher levels. In contrast, when experienced, mid-career teachers are replaced by inexperienced teachers, other studies show productivity drops across the school.

Having retirement security gives schools an effective tool to retain experienced teachers. This pension benefit provides teachers an incentive to continue delivering quality education to K-12 students. This incentive becomes all the more important over a teaching career as the erosion of teachers’ wages, when compared to the wages of similar college educated workers, widens for more experienced teachers.

Wall Street Wants to Profit Off Your Pensions

The same kinds of people who tried to privatize Social Security would love to see pensions go away. Why? Wall Street stands to make enormous profits off of managing 401(k) accounts. Because pension funds are pooled together and professionally managed, there’s much less room for profit on Wall Street.

Most public workers remain in pension plans and most pensions have rebounded from the Great Recession. While some politicians continue to try to break their promise by reducing benefits or moving away from pensions all together, almost all states have maintained their defined benefit pensions in recent years. Retirement security protects workers at both the start and end of their careers, retirees and taxpayers.

AEA and our affiliate, AEA-Retired, advocate to protect your retirement security and fend off these attacks from corporate lobbyists.

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Keeping the Promise of Quality Public Education

With more than 20,000 members, the Arizona Education Association (AEA) is the largest professional association for public school employees in Arizona. AEA members are teachers, community college professors, counselors, speech pathologists, bus drivers, secretaries, retired educators and student teachers and they belong to more than 150 local affiliates across Arizona.