Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: Teachers need support for secure retirement

Think about a favorite teacher that you had in elementary, middle or high school. Was there something they did that really had an impact on your life, or inspired you? Most of us have at least one person that comes to mind from our past. It could have been their daily kindness and encouragement, or even something bigger, like helping you decide on a post-secondary path based on your individual strengths they noticed in the classroom.
I know that I have several teachers that I think about from my childhood in Ohio, and my three teenagers have teachers right here in Middlebury that have made significant, important, and positive impacts on their educational paths (Lisa Rader, Jen Kane and Anne Corrigan to name a few …).
Why do I want you to think about this special teacher? Because we need to support our teachers during this critical time in the legislature, when Treasurer Beth Pearce is proposing a plan to diminish retirement benefits and increase retirement costs for teachers. I urge you to think about how the teacher(s) that came to your mind, and the teachers that are supporting our children right now during this pandemic, would be really damaged by these proposed changes. Please know and consider that our state legislators are considering cuts to teachers’ security, and to our future ability to retire with dignity.
I am a teacher at Mary Hogan School (1998-2002, 2012-present) and I love my chosen profession. Most teachers I know, including myself, did not go into the field of education to get rich. I was a first-generation college student, and my dad encouraged me to pursue teaching for the security of retirement benefits. At age 18 I didn’t take this factor into account when I declared Elementary Education and Special Education as my majors. Instead, I became a teacher because I love children and I wanted to make a positive difference in the world. That might sound corny but I truly believe that my ACSD colleagues feel the same as I do. Most of us have advanced degrees and certifications; compared to those in the private sector with similar educational and licensing standards we get paid much less. We have genuinely chosen less pay to do what we love. Teachers should feel supported by knowing that Vermont will continue to uphold a plan for teachers where we can have financial security in retirement.
Take a moment and think about the teacher that touched your life or your children’s lives. Do you want them to have a secure retirement as they were promised when they entered the profession? I know that I do. I also know I thought I knew what that was going to look like, but now I don’t.
Please support your teachers by contacting your legislative representatives and urging them to oppose Treasurer Beth Pearce’s plan to gut the teachers’ pensions. Ask them to support legislation like H59, a proposed bill that offers another path forward to solving the pension issue.
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter.
Julie Berg, M.Ed.
Middlebury

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