PBS series unfairly attacking retirement security of public employees put on hiatus


by Brian Washington

PBS is known for enriching educational shows such as Sesame Street and objective, quality news programming like The NewsHour. However, if you tuned in to your local PBS station recently, you may have wondered, “When did PBS become an advocate for eliminating retirement security for educators, nurses, firefighters, and other public employees who have spent their lives serving their communities?”

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This is the question those who have come to rely on PBS for objective news and information are asking following the debut last week of a new series titled “The Pension Peril.” As David Sirota recently blogged in an exclusive report, the program, which appeared on hundreds of PBS stations nationwide, promotes the incorrect narrative that public employee pensions are  causing state budget shortfalls and need to be drastically cut.

However, Sirota’s report also dropped a major bombshell — that the series was funded by one of the nation’s leading and wealthiest anti-pension activists, John Arnold, a former hedge fund manager who heads up the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. The Arnold Foundation gave PBS’ flagship station WNET-TV in New York $3.5 million to produce the series.

The good news is, after Sirota’s story was picked up by the New York Times, WNET, feeling the pressure from outraged viewers, returned the Arnold Foundation’s money and put the series on hiatus. PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler, who describes his position as an “independent internal critic with PBS,” called the article important.

It shines a light, once again, on what seems to me to be ethical compromises in funding arrangements and a lack of real transparency for viewers caused, in part, by the complicated funding demands needed to support public broadcasting, and in part by managers who make some questionable decisions.

michael getler
PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler

Many believe the grant to PBS is part of a concerted campaign launched by Arnold and his foundation to get states and municipalities to switch from modest pensions for public service workers to 401K plans. While switching teachers, librarians, police officers and other public service workers to 401Ks would make Arnold and his hedge fund buddies lots of money, the benefits are not that great for educators, who, in many cases, have contributed up to ten percent of their salaries towards their pensions and are not eligible for Social Security. Also, 401K plans are risky and can lose thousands of dollars in the stock market in a single day.

There is no one more interested in the solvency of public pensions systems than the dedicated workers who rely on them. Making sure these pensions are, and remain, solvent is an issue that public employees and our elected officials should work on together. However, everyone—including the politicians who oversee these plans—must do their part. The responsibility cannot rest on the backs of public service workers alone.

Reader Comments

  1. In Michigan our state managed pension plan has been under funded for many, many years (we didn’t know that so many people would be retiring); tapped for over twenty years for many other purposes including a movie company in Detroit last year; (they didn’t raise taxes again). What remained went into derivative based investments to make up the shortfall (who needs a casino to gamble). The state’s legislators are now taxing pension disbursements and continue to collect 3% of our wages to pay for current pensioner’s health benefits which the State Supreme Court has ruled illegal because they had to do something.
    Meanwhile he State Supreme Court is questioning whether the provision in the Michigan Constitution which mandates payment of state pensions really does apply to pensions after all. Legislators are openly talking up the notion that all stakeholders need to be prepared to compromise and in the same breath refer to the Detroit model for dealing with pension shortfalls. An over twenty year history of neglect, abuse and mismanagement is not a part of the discussion. (“why did we rob the bank … cause that’s where the money is…. Clyde Barker”).

  2. I find it disheartening that public employees (especially teachers), are always the sacrificial lambs. I am from NJ and the State’s budget was so over extended they had to tap into the teacher’s fund to bail them out. That is why our pension system is in jeopardy now. So tell me, who is causing state budget shortfalls?

  3. As a teacher in my 9th year, I am disappointed by the behavior of PBS. Here’s a unique idea… let the public employees keep their pensions. Let the politicians give up their pensions and perks, expense accounts, etc. Being a Congressman was never designed to be a life-long self serving occupation. It was designed for people to serve their terms, then GO BACK HOME and continue their lives as they were before..without a salary forever, without benefits forever, without government cars forever, etc. The welfare system had a different purpose also.. to help women and children. It was never meant to be a lifestyle, but a temporary crutch for those who needed it. In this country, we have lost our hardworking values. Our country rewards laziness and greediness… it’s a shame. The politicians need to find people to point the finger at… public employees, those who are the working class and whose tax money supports them. The founding fathers are probably rolling over in the graves daily.

  4. Sooooo weary of public employees receiving all the blame for every financial woe that arises. Especially public educators. How disappointing that PBS participate in the nonsense. We always wanted to believe public broadcasting was unbiased, a sensible, truthful source of information. I have been a staunch supporter in the past. Now I will be a bit more judicious when contributing in the future!!

  5. As a teacher and PBS supporter, I do not think eliminating pledges to PBS is the answer. That only creates a situation where more special-interest money can surge into the void. I would suggest we speak out, write and call our PBS stations, and let them know we are supporters who will withdraw our pledges if this situation isn’t rectified (which it seems they are taking steps to do). Currently, PBS news is the only station doing news as journalism rather than entertainment. I want to support them in that endeavor so they will continue to provide non-biased and balanced reporting.

    By holding PBS accountable while maintaining our support, we raise the level of conversation and provide quality educational programming for millions of people. As a teacher, I think that is worth every cent of my pledge.

    1. Lynn,
      I couldn’t have said it better.
      PBS is still the best we have. Writing them 10’s of THOUSANDS of letters and emails with your personal, factual stories will get them to re-explore their errors.
      If not, then We’re Out On Them!

  6. Well said, Diane S.
    I, too, will suspend my donation.
    As an Ohio teacher, I was forced to retire after 30 years because by continuing to teach I would lose almost $15,000.00 due to the mismanagement of our Stare Teachers Retirement System.
    I worked many part time jobs to put myself through college and during my first 13 years of low pay as a teacher, but will not receive all of the Social Security benefits that were automatically deducted from my pay checks.
    I cannot afford, financially or morally, to continue to contribute to my the local or national PBS station.

    Wonder if some of the authors and artists affiliated with PBS are aware of the conflict?
    Marc Brown, author/illustrator of the “Arthur” series might support us…… Any others?

  7. Why is it that teachers seem to be the cause of all the financial troubles in the world? I have watched for years in PA how school districts were legally allowed to contribute lesser amounts into the teachers’ pension fund. Teachers NEVER reduced their contributions. Now all of a sudden the PA fund is in trouble. Imagine that. And, of course, it’s the fault of the teachers. Now PBS has jumped on the band wagon. I have given my last contribution to PBS.

  8. Great to hear that the Arnold attack on public pensions has been put on hold. However, the profits that Arnold hopes to make by attacking defined benefits plans and pushing defined contribution plans can be so lucrative that he will keep pushing. Also, the Pew Trust, another PBS supporter, is thinking like Arnold. They need to be watched carefully as well.

  9. Thank you for this information. I think it is bad enough that KPBS in San Diego now carries advertising by Ralph Lauren. These ads glorify “dreams and stories” of women clad in animal furs. They are definitely geared towards the rich (what teacher can afford to buy Ralph Lauren?) Despite all of the Nature shows on KPBS that show a concern for climate change, environmental loss, animal poaching, here is an ad from a fashion designer glorifying killing animals and displaying parts of their bodies on fashion models. So I do agree that our public television stations are being gradually influenced by the money that is pouring in from the right. Time for me to withdraw my support from Public television.

  10. Check the salaries of the officers at your local PBS-affiliate. Some of them are off the charts…and then they pass the plate for contributions!? That they would backstab many of their viewers with such duplicitous programming is just another reason not to pick up the phone and pledge.

  11. We all know it is those damn teachers who have caused all the problems at the state level of government. After all, Gov Scott walker told us so. Yes, the same Scott Walker who is now revealed as the conniving liar he has always been. Read some of his recently released emails. Forward Wisconsin!

  12. I have been teaching since the middle of the 1978-79 school year. I have been involved in negotiations since the mid-1980’s. I have watched my earned pension income stolen, simply because state representatives, state senators and 2 governors saw a Healthy Stash of Cash, our state pension, and THEY WANTED IT!!
    The sad part to me is that the state democrats, capitulated to stealing the state employees earned income and they willingly went along with this constitutional Contract clause violation! We gave up days, which is how we get paid, by the day. We took Many pay freezes, in order to maintain our defined benefit pension, and maintain a quality public education system. The most recent pension theft is still in our State Supreme Court. It must be easy to rob other people’s earned compensation packages.
    The Koch’s have us feeding on each other!
    So very sad to watch us going after Each Other, rather than democratically increasing taxes on the millions of American Millionaires and Billionaires. Warren Buffet is embarrassed that he only pays 15% on his income, while his secretaries pay double
    his rate and have to pay 30%!?
    If we actually got progressivity back into our
    Tax Code, on capital and ordinary income, our economy would really take off, and we wouldn’t have to Steal our Teachers EARNED CONTRACTUAL INCOME, decades after they’ve already earned it!!

    1. We won’t be supporting it much longer if this biased behavior continues. If PBS isn’t careful, it will become just another commercial network, selling its airtime to the highest bidder. I think the process began several years ago, when the network started naming it’s spon . . . er, supporters. Another slippery slope?

  13. I am a newly retired Missouri teacher. In the later years of my employment I contributed 14% of my earnings to my retirement. The problem with the pension systems is not with the everyday worker who contributes to the pension system over many years; it is the fault of all the people included getting high benefits with limited years of contribution. Example: elected politicians and their appointees. Also anyone convicted with misuse or mismanagement of their public trust should have their retirement benefits removed or greatly diminished. Also control the outright fraud—people getting payouts that they have not earned.

    1. And lets not forget the “public” employees that have private contributions added to their salary, that also factor into their PERS – Example? Highly paid coaches in universities.

  14. This is so unreal, attacking what was rightfully earned… And, least we forget, folks who earn and receive a public employee pension do not receive social security normally, and if they do the amount they are entitled to receive is cut in half. These pensions were made in the same spirit that social security was created; so when people are too old to work anymore, they still will have an income and not be destitute. Given the average work ethic of todays youth, it is sad they just do not understand this and want everything for free…

  15. PBS – you’ve sold your soul for the almighty dollar!?
    Here in NJ, the politicians figured out how to balance the state budgets for the last 20 years by raiding the public sector retirement funds. As a teacher for 22 years, I have paid into my pension with every paycheck. We have seen a 2% increase in our payments in the last 2 years with more percentages to come thanks to our anti-education and anti-teacher governor, Mr. Christie.

    Now that our pension funds are sorely underfunded and non-funded by the state, the politicians are crying that the money left in the pension fund is insufficient. Is it any wonder after NJ STATE never replaced the money they STOLE from us? Current retirees will not receive COLA’s for 33 years. We now contribute more to receive less when we retire.

    Teachers receive and continue to receive very small salary increases during their years in the profession with low ceilings. We make concessions for everything we’ve gotten – more days and hours of work, less benefits, more duties, less planning time, higher health care premiums, etc. We are the ones who volunteer to do so many extra activities for the students. We are the ones in our communities teaching Sunday school, volunteering as coaches, working with youth programs and much more. Our profession has been bashed again and again and our dedication and expertise has been disrespected at local, state and national levels.

    Besides education bashing, this is an all out frontal attack on women. How do we pay our bills, raise our children, pay our taxes, buy food, fund out retirements? Most of the teachers I know have now taken second jobs to make ends meet. Do citizens realize the more we are pushed to second and third jobs, the less time we spend marking papers, preparing lessons, volunteering to make our school communities stronger?

    Many teachers now would NEVER recommend young people to enter public education. And many don’t because grads can’t even pay back student loans that funded their education majors. We, in NJ, have now been subject to ridiculous evaluation regulations that can put us out of a job easily. Are people so stupid that they don’t realize that giving honest grades and going up against poor admin policy and procedure in a district puts us all in a very precarious situation to keep our position?

    The 2% billionaires of this country do not want the middle class or lower classes to be literate, to know their rights, to form unions, to hope for a better future for their families. They just want the USA to offer substandard, minimal education in the form of corporate for-profit charters – ones that philosophically conform to a permanent underclass.

    Does anyone remember G.W.Bush wanted to privatize Social Security before the giant recession we just experienced? Can you imagine what heartache and poverty would have resulted in our entire nation? Now imagine that scenario with our pensions in the hands of the likes of Arnold and his greedy cronies.

    Hands off our retirement funds, politicians! And payback all the money you’ve stolen from it over the last 20 years in NJ!

    Shame on you big time, PBS! Forget my pledge.

    1. Well said! If I thought I was just parinoid about where our country’s education philosophy is going at the governmental level, at least I’m not alone!

  16. Has PBS sold out to the almighty right-wing dollar, as well? It’s not just the teachers who will suffer from this, but the lower-paid support staffers (educational & para-professional aides, school safety, handicapped child aides, etc.)just the same, if not worse. We will all stand to lose from this.

  17. As to PBS’ biased coverage of public pensions as described in these comments, I would like to add that I have written to PBS in the past to request that they please cover the terrible inequities of WEP/GPO Social Security formulas that affect millions of public worker retirees and future retirees. It is past time for WEP/GPO laws enacted under President Reagan to be repealed! Please, PBS program managers, please initiate coverage in your programing for details on H.R. 1795 and S. 896!

    1. YES, PUT BERT AND ERNIE ON LESS PAY. I AM SICK AND TIRED OF SUPPORTING THEM WITH MY TAXES AND THEY ARE RICH FFROM SELLING ALL THE STUFF WITH THEIR NAMES AND IMAGES. If you did not know this its because PBS has an agreement with them to NOT EXPOSE THEM. See they and PBS are NOT the honest people you think they are. We should be supporting a program like Jakers NOT BERT and ERNIE and crew.

  18. Illinois teachers and professors are getting bashed over pensions too.
    A bill passed that will cut pensions by 20% and increase how much we pay from our salaries. Now Chicago Public Schools/City of Chicago want to do the same. No one is listening to us in Springfield. Got very little media coverage when 24 bus loads of people went there last Wed.

  19. Thanks to David Sirota for bringing this unfair attack on public employee pensions to light. I was a public school employee until retirement. Not only did I contribute around 10% of my pay during the whole term of my employment, but over the years we employees made several decisions in negotiations to compromise on needed salary increases in order that the school district which employed us would have funds to fully fund their part of the pension contribution. It concerns me greatly that people like the Arnolds seem to believe that these pensions are not something we employees have earned.

    1. As a former Michigan teacher, I went through the same things. Now our legislators with their pro-gop power posititon are trying to push the same things on us.

    2. Some don’t realize that the teachers and the school districts put more into these systems than the other person puts into SS. However, some systems are paying too much out. In CA for ex. if you have 5 yrs in or more and retire you get 2% for each yr which means 5x.02= 10% of your three highest yrs avg. salary. at 30 yrs you get .02×30 = 60% of your three highest yrs. UNLESS you are 62 or older and then the factor goes to 2.4% so its from 5x.024 = 12% of the average of three highest yrs to 30 x .024 = 72%. WOW a BIG jump for teaching till you are 62. WHY??? if you retired at 61 you don’t get that jump so how does paying one more year into the system equate to getting 20% higher retirement. This is one thing that I don’t know if any other states do or not but it is NOT fiscally sound to do this. Then it gets worse to defend in CA because if you teach even half time for 4 more years your retirement jumps to 100% of your three highest yrs average. This is NOT sustainable! It must be changed. Don’t run around trying to defend this nonsense! The SS change, YES and the 60% at or after 30 yrs, YES but lets not throw the vast majority of teachers under the bus trying to save these outrageous amounts!!! In CA they should stop the giving of 100% to anyone who only has 30 or less yrs in now as I ALWAYS THINK WE ARE SUPPOSED TO HONOR OUR WORD AND CONTRACTS WITH THOSE WHO HAVE FULLFILLED THEIR PART. But no new ones. Also dump the 2.4% per yr. just because you retire at 62 or later. If you have not reached 62 then you get only 2% and cap it at 60% if you are not already past 62.

      1. Having served on the CTA State Council I have to state that there are errors in the above comments. The reality is the average Tchr retires at 46% to 62% of their final compensation and every case is different. Yes, there are some unusual cases out there but they are few and far between. Also most CA tchrs do not get their fair share of Social Security. I have put in over 17 years into it and get $69 a month because of the reduction given to teachers in the state of CA. Those who are in the CA State Public employment plan get their full social security and that usually includes ed administrators. We have Reagan to thank for this unequal treatment of public employees in the state of California.

  20. Having David Koch on the board of Boston’s PBS station doesn’t sit well with viewers, either, but all efforts to oust him have been ignored.

    1. Why is David Koch on the Boston PBS board? He and his brother and their organization ALEC are anti- public education, anti-Clean Water Act, anti-Clean Air Act, and anti most things that are good for the general well being of the U.S. They are biased and sneaky people, and PBS should not be taking their money.

  21. I just cannot understand why people think that public pension plans are so different from any other pension plan. We contribute to it, as others do; our employer contributes to it, as others do. In our state we do not contribute to Social Security, and so are penalized because of that (a whole other discussion). What more do they want? We’ve given our talents, time and effort to the public good. Do they want blood?

  22. Yes, PBS is gradually shifting by accepting support from big bucks to the right. In Chicago they were among the “news” stations that did not even report on the demonstration against ALEC this summer.

  23. Many public servants, at least in education, promote the PBS stations because they have many shows that require thinking and learning. Please don’t sell out these folks because of someone’s political agenda. Please stay neutral. This neutrality is the only way most people measure whether a network is honest with their reporting. Please don’t sell out that public trust. Many of the people this position takes a stand against, donate to PBS stations throughout the country. We are counting on your neutral stand. Thank you for understanding that a very one-sided approach can be very misleading. Please stop that practice today.

    1. I agree with Carol. Teachers and other public workers are the scapegoats for big business that are controlling too much. I have always supported our local PBS and hope they continue to be discreet about accepting politically motivated funds.

  24. Here in Missouri we contribute a substantial 14.5% of our salaries to our pension — our districts, in turn, match that amount — and have a stable, well-managed system for it. We also do not get social security.

      1. No. Teachers post 1986 do not pay into social security during the regular school year. A required % is deducted from our public school paychecks every month for the public school retirement system.

    1. I do NOT believe that if you worked outside of the schools and paid into SS that they should take part or all of it from you. This is a different system funded by states and local districts and taxes, NOT federal so they have no right to take any of it. It is NOT double dipping as it is from a different taxing unit, NOT FEDERAL. Congress needs to change this. HOWEVER if you are working for the federal gov. and getting their fat pension then you do not pay into SS and if you have then you should not get SS too except for the sliding scale. That is double dipping and it comes from the same tax unit, the federal gov.

      1. Thanks Brian for your clarity. Congress has had this issue tabled for years and needs to act to correct this injustice. Losing nearly half of my Social Security earned over 20+ years because I accepted a job teaching and vested a teacher’s pension in a District which paid into TRS was a big retirement surprise. Congress should not have the right to change the rules retro-actively and break a good faith contract.

    2. I do NOT believe that if you worked outside of the schools and paid into SS that they should take part or all of it from you. This is a different system funded by states and local districts and taxes, NOT federal so they have no right to take any of it. It is NOT double dipping as it is from a different taxing unit, NOT FEDERAL. Congress needs to change this. HOWEVER if you are working for the federal gov. and getting their fat pension then you do not pay into SS and if you have then you should not get SS too except for the sliding scale. That is double dipping and it comes from the same tax unit, the federal gov. This stupid site manager is trying to reject this comment as a duplicate comment. They say it looks as If I have already said that. This site is run by idiots who program a comp. to look for some of the same words used in both sites but they don’t have enough sense to know that a different issue is being discussed here. and they are too lazy to actually read it. This program doesn’t THINK you bozos and it cant really read, only look for series of duplicate keystrokes.

      1. See how stupid the programmers and site managers are on here, They rejected the above comment as being duplicate to a former comment till I add four sentences point out how dumb they are and then the program accepted it. See the program actually is smarter than they are and recognized the truth in my saying they are stupid bozos.

  25. Let’s see what is going on here in education. Teachers now have little or no job security, salaries are low to start with, raises are determined by children that don’t care if they learn or not because they will be passed on anyway, parental support is lacking in so many cases, respect for teachers is nonexistent by most parents and politicians, and now there is a movement to cut back pensions that were earned? Yeah, I can’t understand why the number of people going into teaching is dropping so fast. I wonder if members of Congress and state legislators would like to work under that same conditions?? I know that will happen when I get up some morning and open the newspaper and the headlines read, “HELL FROZE OVER!!!”

    1. I agree with most of your comments except those about children and parents. Of course children want to learn! And it is important to every parent that their child succeed. There are often obstacles in their way that can sometimes be out of their control. Cycle of poverty, etc. Educators do their best to give children and family help and resources to overcome these obstacles. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s much more complicated than how you have stated it. But as a teacher, i want to thank you for your support!

      1. Teresa, with all due respect to your statement, ‘of course children want to learn’ I would put forth to you that the culture of entitlement and ‘self esteem- every child is special’ where children learn that there will be an accomaodation at every instance of failure has left us with a terrible problem of lackluster student striving in our schools. This culture permeates the school systems of America. It is pervasive and it is unrecognized as a main reason why American schools are failing. And the NEA is part of this problem and was essential in creating the culture as well, unfortunately. As liberals now embrace corporate methods to improve schools, the NEA leadership is totally lost – until they start listening to the teachers in the trench again.

      2. I find your comment that all students want to learn bogus. There are some who don’t want to do anything close to learning. There are some who actually tell me that they don’t want to waste their time in school as they don’t intend to ever use any of it as they plan to go on welfare and not work. Many others, for whatever reason, just come to disrupt and get great pleasure from school boards and job scared and/or stupid administrators who not only allow them to do so but encourage them in their stealing of others education. Also some are smart enough to know they will never use some of the crap they are being required to learn. For us as educators to push every kid to 4 yr or even two yr colleges is STUPID. Economists tell us that only about 25-28% of the job market will require a college degree. Why do you think that about 40% of college graduates cant work in their fields or do not have any job? Plus after the next big storm that blows through you area rips off your roof and you are sitting in the rain I suggest you put up a sign in your yard that says, “WILL SOME LOWLIFE, STUPID, UNEDUCATED CAPRPENTER STOP AND FIX MY ROOF” or I suggest you grow all your own food so some uneducated truck driver or store shelf stocker or janitor or store clerk are the ONLY reason you will continue to live and not starve to death. Plus, when you have a car damaged run and find a social studies major or perhaps a psychology major or better yet a political science graduate to fix it or repair the brakes on it. The rest of the educated world does not force or even allow everyone to go to college and their high school and college students are kicking our butts. Some of the non learners would be glad to learn if we quit badmouthing what their dads and moms did and what they might want to do and actually helped them learn the things necessary for their goals to be achieved.

  26. What seems just as unfair is the fact that teachers cannot receive any of the Social Security to which they are entitled. If a teacher held another job before or after teaching, that individual spent that time working without retirement benefits. Teachers don’t receive great wages, especially considering the job. This just adds insult to injury. Congress needs to get off of its collective rump and remedy this unfairness.

    1. Not getting part of the social security only happens in 8 or 9 states. CA and AK are two of them and I have worked in both. However, I had 30 yrs. in WA and one in NC where I worked and earned at least the min. amt. to qualify and did pay into SS. When I retired a second time from a few yrs in CA they did not touch my SS. I get both. Its calculated on a sliding scale according to how close you are to the full 30 yrs. of paying into SS. I agree that to take any is unfair as they are separate systems and if you paid in then you should be able to take out. It is NOT double dipping as you paid into both and so did the employer and you should get both. This came about as some yrs back congress could not stand it that some states had better retirement than SS and they could not get their hands on it. So they voted to take back any benefits you had earned for SS.

  27. All the people I know who watch PBS are educators or retirees from one of the public service jobs listed in the article. These are also the people who donate to PBS. For a large corporate interest to be able to buy into a program advocating for reduction of earned benefits is a terrible disservice and insult to devoted fans and members of these stations.

    To achieve “balanced reporting”, if shown, it should be coupled with a series revealing the dangers of investment companies to a secure future earned through decades of hard work and dedication. Many of these will strive to sell investments offering them the best payout, not their clients. Often they can’t loose. They get their payout no matter what the investment does. Unfortunately sometimes this leaves retirees in poverty, through no fault of their own. Who would work for a “maybe” paycheck? How long would you work for a reduced percent of salary?

  28. An article like this needs to be placed in every newspaper in the country.
    The public needs to know this as well as educators and other public workers. Here in Pa we have a governor pushing for pension reform and a 401 K type system. The big issue being that our pension system funds are down due to the market but also because the state and the schools were given a vacation from paying their share into the pensions system for over 12 years. Now they are expected to catch up through higher contributions and they don’t like it.

  29. Since they have been unable to destroy it, the corporate powers that be are now attempting to “buy” PBS and bend it to their anti-working and middle class narrative. We will be seeing more and more of this in the near future.

  30. The very fact that teachers are exempt from EVER receiving social security is an attack on women. Women’s rights activists and female politicians need to STEP TO THE PLATE on behalf of women. Teaching is predominantly (not completely) a female dominated profession, while many other professional jobs that receive pensions are not. Operators, laborers, police officers, fire fighters, etc. are primarily male dominted. Yet, they get to receive both pensions which they paid for and social security. Only the female dominated professions are discriminated against in this way, not male. Most teachers, including myself, have worked second jobs their entire lives contributing to the social security system. It is robbery, since they are completely exempt from ever receiving it. Teachers contribute 10% of their income to their pensions their entire lives. They buy their pension. It is not given to them. They pay for it. Teachers should be exempt from paying social security and should receive every dollar they have ever paid into it back. CALL TO ACTION: POLITICIANS, WHAT DO YOU PLAN TO DO TO REPRESENT THE WOMEN IN YOUR VOTING DISTRICTS?

    1. Louisa, very good point. I paid plenty into social security working for private schools and day care programs. Also, have almost always worked second jobs while a public school teacher for the last 16 years. I am 53 now and have only paid into the state teachers pension for 16 years. As a Massachusetts teacher I will never see a penny of my SS and will have to teach another 13 years to get my full teacher’s pension (80 % of my salary). My job is grant-funded, so risky. I do not have tenure in my current district. If I lose this job and have to go private again my retirement plan is screwed.

  31. These attacks on educators are becoming more common. All the ills of our society are being blamed on us.
    I think it’s time government and parents accepted their share of the blame.

  32. So completely true, especially true here in Florida, where we have one of the most stable, well-funded pension plans for public employees. Figures a hedge fund guy would want public money dumped into 401K plans…gee, who might profit? After all, our pension money is invested already, What more do they want?

  33. I hope we all remember this during the next PBS pledge drive. It might be good to call your local PBS station and tell them why you’re not supporting them.

    1. I suspended my monthly donation to WNET-Thirteen over this issue. I have contributed to Thirteen for over 34 years and do not take this step lightly. However, I do not intend to renew my membership to Thirteen until Mr. Sam Fine (lead producer of “Pension Peril”) and Ms. Brenda Breslauer (director of programming initiatives, including “Pension Peril”) are reprimanded and/or removed from their positions at Thirteen over this betrayal of trust by the secret funding of the series and the one-sided reporting of the issue. As Mr. Segaller (Vice President of programming at WNET-Thirteen)points out below, they made mistakes both in not following PBS guidelines and in the vetting process. Frankly, this is not something to be glossed over or taken lightly. As you so correctly point out, the trust of your viewership must be your highest priority and immediate, meaningful steps must be taken to restore that trust. The return of the Arnold Foundation’s funding was in important first step, but it cannot be the last step. The personnel responsible for what I consider gross negligence must be held responsible.

      As a retired public school teacher who spent 36 years serving the children of my town, my pension is a sacred trust and property right that cannot be trifled with by the likes of the Arnold Foundation or Thirteen. My monthly donation may not make a big difference to the station’s survival, but I assure you that not donating in the face of this travesty makes a big difference to my conscience.

      Please know that the sincerity expressed in your message is appreciated and I hope to be able to renew my membership in the very near future. Meanwhile, I will follow the unfolding events as they relate to the producers and programming initiatives involved in “Pension Peril” with interest.

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