Education news

Proposed legislative changes to teacher retirement are the subject of an information meeting tonight.

Fred Gould, a field director for Georgia Association of Educators, will talk about the issue at Model High School tonight at 5:30 p.m. All Floyd County and Rome City educators are invited to attend.

“Part of my job is to keep track of legislation that could change or affect educators in Georgia,” said Gould. “This is something we’ve been watching for the last 10 years, as it moves across the country.”

Senate Resolution 782 was introduced at this year’s Georgia General Assembly session but never moved. Gould said he thinks the resolution will be proposed again when the new session starts in January.

The resolution would set up a committee to look at Georgia’s Teacher Retirement System and the ways it could be changed. One way is that the system would be divided into defined benefits for those teachers already hired and defined contributions for those to be hired in the future.

It also proposes taking 5 percent of the TRS reserve and making use of it in venture capital investments — a move Gould contends is too risky.

“This is really a case of taking something that isn’t broken and trying to fix it,” he said. “The biggest irony is that Georgia’s TRS is one of the strongest and soundest in this entire country. It is consistently listed as one of the top five teacher retirement systems.”

Gould said he and other field directors from GAE are conducting meetings around the state to educate teachers about the possible changes, and to encourage them to start making their feelings about the idea known to their legislators.

“Out of the meetings I’ve had so far, not many teachers know this is even on the table,” he said. “They don’t realize this is even being discussed. It is important that they know about this. I’ve seen a lot of shock and a lot of dismay when they hear about it.”

Gould said similar legislation has passed in several states — including California, Colorado, Nebraska, Tennessee and West Virginia — and at least two have already returned to the defined benefit system.

“I think that may be a sign that it is not something Georgia should rush into,” he said.

Gould said the GAE is trying to make sure all public education employees have a guaranteed retirement plan.

“We know this will be introduced,” he said. “We want to get our teachers informed so they can speak to their legislators about it.”