Debate continues on state employees and teachers retirement

Jan 13, 2015

A Senate committee is considering a change in the state’s foundation aid stabilization fund.

It would allow the Legislature to take a part of that fund for low-interest school construction loans – and to pay off some unfunded state retirement benefits – including teachers’ retirement.

The North Dakota School Boards Association supports the proposal – and says the payment of retirement benefits to teachers under the “defined benefit” plan will lead to further discussions about whether teachers should be under a “defined contribution” plan. Association executive director Jon Martinson says that’s a conversation worth having.

"We have a teacher shortage," said Martinson. "And in terms of recruiting and retaining teachers, we need to get the salaries up. Younger teachers are more interested in what we can put in their pockets, rather than have them look 35 years out."

North Dakota United represents teachers and public employees. NDU president Nick Archuleta says he doesn’t support using that fund to pay off retirement plans.

"We believe there are some people who do not like the defined benefit plan," said Archuleta. "They would take the money, fully fund those things, then cut off any new teachers or employees from joining a defined benefit plan. That would be detrimental to our state, our public employees and teachers."

The measure would be a Constitutional change – and if the Legislature approves, would go on the ballot in 2016.