Readers respond: Proposed PERS cuts burden education

Rep. Knute Buehler and the Oregon business community’s calls for more cuts to the Public Employees’ Retirement System and funding existing PERS on the backs of schools is a disservice to our dedicated educators and, most importantly, our children.

As a newer teacher, I am tier three in the PERS system, meaning my retirement benefits are significantly less than most of my colleagues’. The retirement promised to the majority of tier one PERS retirees who worked 30 years for Oregon still averages little more than enough to afford a typical one-bedroom apartment in Portland.

Everyone talks about wanting better schools, but for that to succeed we need highly qualified educators. From my graduating class, less than half are still teaching in Oregon. The majority either left the profession or left Oregon. Nobody cares to work for an agency that constantly threatens their retirement while increasing their workload.

No one going into public service expects to get rich. As a teacher, I do my job because I love helping young people find direction in life. Public employees can historically count on one guarantee: a reliable and safe retirement. We need highly qualified teachers with reasonable class loads that allow them time to engage every student. If Oregon further reduces PERS — especially while cutting school budgets — we should not expect qualified educators to stick around or for our schools to improve. We must stop funding these promises on the backs of children.