NOLA, Hurricane Katrina, and Teacher Pensions (Part II)

Yesterday I wrote about how Hurricane Katrina illustrated a big risk to teachers–that they won’t stick around long enough to qualify for sufficient retirement savings from their state pension plan. I want to add two points to that:

1. Because pensions are so back-loaded, teachers only really benefit after they stay for a VERY long time, often 25 or 30 years. After the Orleans Parish School Board dismissed 7,500 employees in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, they significantly altered their teaching workforce. Today, almost no New Orleans teachers have 20 or more years of experience, meaning very few teachers are truly benefiting from the state pension system. The graph below comes from a new brief out of the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans. The red line represents the percentage of New Orleans teachers with more than 20 years of experience. It plummeted after Hurricane Katrina, and today only about 7-8 percent of New Orleans teachers have 20 or more years of experience.

NOLA Teacher Exp Levels_circle


Other than this small fraction of workers, New Orleans teachers are enrolled in a retirement system that won’t provide them sufficient retirement income.

2. Louisiana teachers are part of the 40 percent of American public school teachers who are NOT enrolled in Social Security. Not only are they losing out from their pension system, they also can’t count on Social Security to provide them income protection in their old age as nearly every other American worker does. We think they should be.