Debate in Annapolis is heating up over who will pay the tab for teacher pensions, which has historically been covered by the state.
Government, school and union leaders are solidly against shifting even part of the cost to localities, particularly in Prince George’s and Montgomery County, which are grappling with budget shortfalls that exceed $100 million.
We reported on the latest plan from the Senate in Thursday’s Metro section
According to several lawmakers and others familiar with the plan, it calls for the state to curb the fastest-growing cost of its education success: teacher pensions, whose annual cost has more than doubled to nearly $1 billion since 2006.
Greater education funding from the state to counties has led schools to increase teacher pay and been credited with creating better-prepared students. But it has also led to bigger obligations on the state’s underfunded retirement system.
The Senate’s plan would gradually shift a share of the ongoing costs for teachers’ retirements to counties while leaving the state on the hook for the existing imbalance in the system, which critics say was partly a result of poor management by the state.
It would not be as great a shift as that sought by O’Malley (D), who wanted to use the realignment to cut a quarter of the state’s own shortfall of nearly $1 billion, but counties say it will still be far more than what they can afford.
School boards also likely won’t be happy. The plan calls for sending the bill for teachers’ pensions to school boards, not to counties, whose executives have appeared in Annapolis almost daily in recent weeks to warn that any shift would force layoffs and cuts to county services.