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Letter to the editor: Protect PERA

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Protect PERA

Right now there is a bill (Senate Bill 200) coming to the floor of our state Legislature which could destroy one of the few solid compensations for public employees, like teachers, whose profession is already in peril. Public employees loan the state money from our paychecks our whole career so they can invest it and create a truly secure retirement. 401(k)s cannot come close to matching that, as we learned from the financial crisis of 2008, when many people saw their “secure” retirement fund evaporate.

This attack on PERA cynically masquerades as “choice” for employees, when it will in effect kill PERA — one of the most successful retirement systems in the country. This “choice” is designed to divert money from a secure retirement plan and put it into the pockets of hedge fund managers and investment advisers. Like most reliable retirement systems, PERA works only because there’s a big pool of contributors. Giving employees an option of putting their money into a 401(k) would damage, if not destroy the integrity of PERA, when the goal should be exactly the opposite.

Colorado teachers rank 50th in the nation in salary competitiveness, so we are expecting a shortfall of 3,000 teachers next year. Having a secure retirement system helps compensate for teachers’ low salaries. For me, knowing that’s in place just helps me focus on my job — helping kids learn, rather than having to check the vicissitudes of the stock market to see if I’ll be able to retire someday.

Steve Miles

teacher, Arapahoe High School

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