February Issue
January 25, 2015

TRS: Can after-school clubs count for pension credit?

Source: NYSUT United

Teacher-members on the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System Board of DirectorsQ: I teach an after-school technology club and I'm wondering if this work can count toward my three-year final average salary with the New York State Teachers' Retirement System. My district says it's not eligible for credit, but I'm not so sure. What are your thoughts?

A: Maybe, maybe not. Under Education Law 501, only "regular compensation earned as a teacher" can be calculated into the three-year final average salary. However, recently questions have arisen about pay earned through after-school programs. Turns out, some service qualifies, but not all.

Only earnings that meet the following conditions can be reported as regular salary:

  • The service must be actual classroom teaching of an academic subject, such as math, English, science or other traditional disciplines.
  • Programs that don't require a certified teacher, or deal with social issues like drug abuse or sexual behavior, don't qualify.
  • Additionally, the programs must be conducted on school premises, and any student fees must be nominal.
  • Finally, members must have a career history, extending well beyond the three-year pre-retirement period, of providing the instruction.

Q: I recently read about a congressional bill that would allow employers to reduce retiree pension benefits. Could this impact my NYSTRS pension?

A: No, this legislation doesn't apply to NYSTRS-funded pensions. The Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014 was negotiated to let deeply underfunded multiemployer plans avoid bankruptcy and termination, and to keep solvent the multiemployer pension insurance fund, which is overseen by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., the federal pension insurance program.

The provisions apply only to multiemployer, or "Taft-Hartley," pension plans, which are commonly administered by labor unions on behalf of their members and funded by multiple employers in a given industry.

DID YOU KNOW

About 90 percent of the funds used to pay New York State Teachers' Retirement System benefits come from investment returns and employee contributions.

The NYSTRS system remains strong

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2014, the system's portfolio saw returns of 18.2 percent, exceeding the actuarially assumed return rate of 8 percent. NYSTRS' five-year average rate of return is 13.8 percent.

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