You will have a hard time finding an educator say they entered the profession for the money. But for most public educators across the nation, the reward for a long, successful career is a pension. Knowing there was a pension, many educators have not had to give a second thought about finances in life after teaching. What if I told you though that the teacher pension debt nationwide stands at $516 billion dollars as of 2016? Would you begin to grow concerned?
April is Financial Literacy Month, so in today’s episode, I’m joined by pension expert Dr. Zakry Standerfer. Together we take a quick pulse on what’s happening to pensions throughout the nation and more importantly, what it means for educators. Teaching is still a viable option for a stable career, but we need policy makers to recognize this and properly fund pensions for public workers.
Dr. Zakry Standerfer
Dr. Zakry Standerfer began thinking about retirement while still an undergrad. He gained an understanding of how pensions worked and the benefits they could provide. At the same time, he began to see pensions start a slow spiral towards under-funding. After graduating with his teaching degree from Eastern Illinois University, Zak began his career in education teaching 5th and 6th grade at Windsor Elementary School. He then spent six years teaching junior high social studies at Pana Junior High before returning to Windsor Elementary School to serve as the elementary principal for four years. For the past eleven years, Zak has worked for Eastern Illinois University as a Student Teaching Coordinator. On July 1, 2019, Dr. Standerfer began serving as the Assistant Regional Superintendent for the Regional Office of Education #11.
Dr. Standerfer received his Master’s and Specialist’s in Education from EIU, and his Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from Indiana State University. His dissertation, The Illinois Teacher Pension Crisis Impact on Illinois Teacher Attrition has gained the attention of many. Much of Dr. Standerfer’s research, findings, and implications are beginning to play out as the Illinois teacher pension crisis continues to grow. When not exploring the impacts of pension crises nationwide, you can probably find Zak on a lake somewhere sailing, kayaking, or boat camping. He resides in Sullivan, IL with his wife Amanda and children J.J., Wes, and Callie.
Resources from this episode:
- Visit https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2018/02/pensions-safety-net-california/553970/ to read the entire Atlantic article referenced throughout this episode. Though it speaks primarily of Social Security, the same concept applies to teacher pensions and other defined-benefit plans.
- Read the entire executive summary by the National Council on Teacher Quality on the teacher pension crisis.
- Though not referenced in this episode, here is another great article published recently on the retirement crisis nationwide.