Why More Than A Million Teachers Can’t Use Social Security

By Cory Turner for NPR

Teachers have staged protests in recent weeks in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Colorado and Arizona. Some are fighting lawmakers who want to scale back their pensions.

It’s no secret that many states have badly underfunded their teacher pension plans for decades and now find themselves drowning in debt. But this pensions fight is also complicated by one little-known fact:

More than a million teachers don’t have Social Security to fall back on.

To understand why, we need to go back to Aug. 14, 1935. That is when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the original Social Security Act.

“This Social Security measure gives at least some protection to at least 50 million of our citizens,” Roosevelt intoned.

But of those 50 million citizens, one big group was left out: state and local workers. That was because of constitutional concerns over whether the federal government could tax state and local governments, says Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

“So, in the 1950s,” Munnell says, “there were amendments added to the Social Security Act that allowed governments to enroll their workers.”

Read more here.

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