Poll: NY Teachers Want Retirement Choice

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Seventy-one percent of New York State’s public school teachers support giving new teachers a choice between a defined-contribution retirement plan and a traditional defined-benefit pension, according to a statewide poll conducted for the Empire Center for Public Policy.

A defined-contribution retirement option is included in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed Tier 6 pension plan. The Empire Center’s survey of 500 public school teachers, conducted March 5-11 by McLaughlin & Associates, found broad support for the concept among public school teachers of all ages. Among the detailed findings:

  • Seventy percent of respondents said they would have at least considered a defined-contribution plan if one had been offered when they were hired, including 26 percent who said they would have chosen such a plan instead of a traditional pension.
  • Asked what they most liked about a defined-contribution plan, 47 percent identified the full portability of benefits among employers, followed by control over investments (24 percent) and full vesting after one year (21 percent).
  • Regardless of their own preference, teachers rated the two types of plans almost equally, with 63 percent saying a defined-contribution option was a good plan and 68 percent saying a defined-benefit pension was a good plan.
  • 57 percent support the creation of a “hybrid” retirement plan combining a smaller defined-benefit pension with defined-contribution accounts.

Tim Hoefer, director of the Empire Center, noted that the poll shows equally strong support for a defined-contribution option among teachers who assigned favorable ratings to teacher unions.

“Teachers clearly favor the kind of choice the governor wants to offer them,” Hoefer said. “If anything, state legislators should be working to enhance this proposal.”

While teachers were broadly supportive of a defined-contribution option, they opposed proposed Tier 6 changes relating to defined-benefit pensions. The poll found that 52 percent opposed raising teacher contributions to pensions, 63 percent opposed an increase in the 10-year pension vesting period, and nearly 78 percent opposed an increase in the retirement age for future teachers. While nearly 69 percent of teachers described public pensions as a “problem,” two-thirds said they thought the current system was sustainable.

The poll’s margin of error was plus or minus 4.5 percent. The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan 501c3 think tank.