As reported in POLITICO, Sunlight just released its second report on teachers’ pensions: “Ugly Truths and Hard Facts about New Jersey’s Pension Crisis, Part II: NJEA Leadership Has Secure, Gold-Plated Pensions, While Teachers’ Pensions are Inferior and at Risk.” The title says it all: the NJEA leadership can sleep well at night knowing that their multi-million-dollar pensions are secure while the teachers who pay for the leadership’s pensions have vastly inferior pensions that are severely underfunded and at risk of insolvency. These are facts and Sunlight defies anyone to identify an inaccuracy in the report.
Confronted with these uncomfortable truths, the NJEA refused to make a comment to POLITICO. Think about that: the NJEA leadership, whose salaries and pensions are funded by teachers’ highest-in-the-nation dues, have nothing to say about these facts. Nothing to say about teachers’ vastly inferior pensions; nothing to say about the dire condition of their pension fund, known as TPAF. Nothing.
Why? Because the NJEA has been actively misleading teachers about the security of their pensions. They do not want teachers to know that TPAF is bleeding assets and projected to run out of money in 2027. In the most recent NJEA Review, the NJEA’s monthly magazine, there is a “Pension Update” on page 14 with a chart that shows the “Total Pension Fund” as having $80.3 billion in assets as of August 31, 2020. $80 billion – that’s a comforting amount of assets, and it is so misleading as to be false. $80 billion is the amount of assets in NJ’s ENTIRE state pension system. The teachers’ actual pension plan, TPAF, had $22.7 billion of assets on June 30, 2019 – before COVID hit, which is down from $27 billion in 2014. That’s $22 billion versus $80 billion – an enormous difference.
Why would the NJEA leadership mislead teachers? Because they do not want teachers to know the truth. That’s the same reason they dismiss the facts in Sunlight’s report. The leadership fears that if teachers knew the truth about their pensions, they would be outraged. They would demand answers as to how this happened and they would demand reforms to secure their pensions. And they would ask why they are paying their highest-in-the-nation dues so that the NJEA leadership can have gold-plated, multi-million-dollar, over-funded pensions, while their own pensions are inferior and at risk.
Teachers deserve better from their NJEA leadership.