MU study finds parts of teacher pension funds are being used to pay off debt

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COLUMBIA - Nearly 11 percent of Missouri public school teacher pension plans are being used to pay for pension debt, according to a University of Missouri Study

Associate professor of economics and public policy Cory Koedel headed the study. 

Koedel said when teachers get their checks, 14.5 percent is taken out to pay for their pension. 

"I would imagine that most people think that means that is paying for their pension, which they might not like the 14.5 percent but at least they think they're paying for their own pension," Koedel said. "There's nothing that says, oh by the way a big chunk of this is actually just debt. There's nothing in their check that says that." 

Koedel said if it were not for the debt, as of 2013, teachers should only have to pay 9 percent. 

"I don't think it's reasonable to not make that assumption that when it says money's coming out of their check to pay for their pension benefits that it's actually paying for their own benefits," Koedel said. 

KOMU 8 News reached out to Public School and Education Employee Retirement system of Missouri (PSRS). PSRS officials said they were unavailable for an interview and haven't had a chance to read the study.

According to its website, "The Public School and Education Employee Retirement Systems of Missouri (PSRS/PEERS) provide a significant and stable source of retirement, disability and survivor benefits to Missouri's public school teachers, school employees and their families." 

Koedel said he isn't sure why there hasn't been public concern about paying high pensions. 

"I think everyone should care because the money being taken to pay for these pension debts is affecting the services that we as tax payers are paying for. Past costs are coming back to haunt us, and it's going to lower the quality of services that the typical tax payers are going to get for their money." 

Koedel said if no action is taken debts will keep piling up, creating repercussion is the education system. 

"It's not like the building is going to fall down tomorrow and I get that, so many people aren't that worried about it. At the same time, the continued tax on the system from these growing pension tax is going to keep degrading education services."