Charles A. (Charles Allen) Prosser.

The teacher and old age online

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U . S . A



INTRODUCTION. . . . David Snedden v


Charles A. Prosser

I. Present Extent of Teachers' Pen-
sions AND Annuities i

II. Teachers' Annuities as Part of a

Program of Social Insurance . . 19

III. The Question of Teachers' Retire-
MENT Allowances in the Light of
Social Insurance Principles ... 30


H IV. Characteristics of a Model Retire-


^ MENT Law 70


g V. Getting Legislation ....... 88

Appendices 99

*jp Outline 136





By David Snedden

Commissioner of Education for the State of Massachusetts.

The calling of the public-school teacher is not
yet, in America, a profession. But everywhere
the earnest friends of education are striving to
transform teaching from a temporary and often
casual employment into a vocation exhibiting
something of the systematic preparation, the
stability, the progressiveness, and the dignity of
a profession.

Some of the means that have been foimd help-
ful in improving the professional status of the
teacher are: professional traim'ng, both before
and during service; state certijScation; more per-
manent tenure ; skilled supervision ; promotion to
higher rank or salary on the basis of merit; and
more attractive financial compensation for work

Many educators and other students of social
economy now believe that the systematic provi-
sion of retirement allowances for superannuated
or otherwise incapacitated teachers will operate


in a variety of ways toward making teaching a
more attractive and a more serviceable calling.
Confessedly, many factors in the situation are
yet obscure, for we know little that is conclusive
about the problems of social psychology involved.
Experience shows that do public employment
will resolutely dismiss faithful servants who have
become incapacitated, if these possess no re-
sources to fall back upon. But in no other field,
probably, is it so hard, as it is in the public-school
service, to find minor positions which aged and
broken workers can take up, without sacrificing
their self-respect; and certainly it would be hard
to find a department in which the ailing or
decrepit worker can do greater harm, than in
the schoolroom where, perhaps, twoscore eager,
restless children, with all their possibilities of
malformation of mind and character, must spend
precious years of their lives. It is, therefore, of
the utmost importance that the teaching service,
which has now nearly five hundred thousand
employees, and on which is expended nearly
$500,000,000 annually, should be enabled to
provide humane and satisfactory retirement to
workers who can no longer render the grade of
service required. It is useless to argue that
school boards should retire unserviceable teach-


ers, no matter what their financial circumstances
may be; practically, and humanly, they do not,
and will not, do so.

Another object contemplated in a teachers'
retirement system is to give to those still in the
active period of their service a sense of security,
and opportunity for undivided attention to the
calls of the profession. Teachers in general, and
especially those most capable of single-minded
interest in the service, are, for temperamental
and other reasons, at a disadvantage in making
investments, except such as yield lowest returns.
There can be little doubt that society will gain
by any successful attempt to render the teacher
more secure as to her future and less preoccu-
pied with the worry of business affairs during
active service. The realization of such a condi-
tion will also weigh with those persons who have
most to contribute to the profession of teaching,
and will encourage them to enter and to remain
in this caUing.

In all civilized countries the principles of com-
pulsory social insurance are finding application in
public and in private employment. Many care-
ful students are convinced that inevitably social
insurance will soon prevail universally. The
teaching profession is seemingly one of the forms


of employment to be soonest considered in this

Two fundamental principles lie at the bottom
of social insurance. The first is that by each
individual, or on his behalf, during the' period
of life when he is capable of producing more
than a bare subsistence, provision shall be made
compulsorily against one or more of such future
contingencies as death, accident, disease, super-
annuation, and unemployment, whereby his
productive power is stopped or reduced to the
possible harm of himself or those dependent
upon him. The second is that the making of this
provision shall be required and, under some cir-
cumstances, assisted by the collective will speak-
ing through the State, which will also guarantee
the secure investment and conservation of the
contributions made by the individual.

From the standpoint of these principles of
social economy which underlie social insurance,
the conditions surrounding the teacher's profes-
sion which seem to justify proposals for a retire-
ment system actually differ in degree only, and
not in kind, from the conditions surrounding
other public and private callings. In the present
rapidly developing demand for more efficient
public education, it is, of course, socially expe-


dient that everything possible shall be done to
encourage the most capable people to enter upon
teaching as a career, to give to it all the training
and devotion possible, to follow it with undivided
interest, and to retire willingly when their effec-
tiveness shall have become impaired. Hence,
the widespread popular interest in teachers'
retirement systems at the present time in al-
most all educationally progressive states in the

In enacting legislation for teachers' retirement
systems there is a peculiar need of statesmanship
of a high and far-seeing order. In few other
fields is there so great danger that immediate and
individual considerations will obscure the larger
issues involved. It is said that old teachers are
too poor to make contributions; that teachers are
not paid what they are worth ; that teachers, not
yet old, but in broken health, should be enabled
to retire on a fair allowance; that retirement
allowances should be sufficient to maintain the
accustomed standard of Hving ; that teachers
should not be compelled to retire until they
themselves think they have become inefficient;
— these, and a hundred other incidental and
confficting considerations, are liable to over-
shadow the main principles involved. Quite


naturally, in view of the history of pensions, the
"straight pension" from the State is the first
goal of the teacher's efforts. But as to-day
viewed by the best students of social insurance,
the "straight pension" from the State is like the
unwise charity which suggested the parody "It
is twice cursed — it curseth him that gives, and
also him that takes." In the estimation of the
writer, at least, there is imminent danger in the
disposition of teachers' organizations to advo-
cate the principle of the non-contributory retire-
ment allowance — the so-called "straight pen-
sion." Surely nothing will serve better as an
index of the professional character of teachers
and their organizations than their ability to rise
superior to special and temporary interests
where proposals to found a lasting system of
social insurance for teachers are under considera-
tion. Vested rights seem to accrue dangerously
fast here when once legislation is enacted, and it
is long and slow work to undo the effects of a bad
system once established.

The principles and laws described in Mr.
Prosser's monograph have been developed only
after prolonged study and experimentation.
That so extensive a presentation is possible at
the present time indicates the complex develop-


ment of the subject. It is certainly to be hoped
that Mr. Prosser's careful work will receive its
due consideration from those engaged in the
future in promoting legislation for teachers'
retirement systems.



Teachers' annuities and retirement allowances,
supported wholly or partly by the public, have
been extensively developed in European countries
during the last quarter of a century. All the
states of the German Empire, Austria-Hungary,
Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Bel-
gium, France, together with Italy and Great
Britain, pay annuities to teachers of elementary
schools. All of these countries, with the addition
of Spain, Portugal, Greece, and Russia, provide
pensions of one kind or another for teachers of
secondary education.

The schemes of these nations differ widely as
to the way in which the annuity is supported, its

^ Throughout this discussion the word "annuity" is used to
describe the retirement allowance purchased in part or entirely
by the contributions of the beneficiary; "pension" to describe
the allowance purchased entirely by those of the public; "re-
tirement allowance" to include both "annuity" and "pen-


amount, and the conditions as to age and length
of service under which it is granted. In some
countries the cost of these allowances is met en-
tirely by the public, and in others in part by as-
sessments upon the teachers, the former being
the more frequent plan. The contribution of the
public is met in some cases by the state, and in
others by the joint support of the state and the
local community, the latter being the usual prac-
tice. The annuity paid upon retirement varies
from ten to one hundred per cent of the last salary
earned by the beneficiary, the average minimum
allowance being usually about one third and the
average maximum about two thirds of the teach-
er's wage at the time of retirement. The number
of years of service which the teacher must give
before he becomes eligible to an allowance be-
cause of disability is usually ten, and the age at
which he may be required to withdraw from the
service and accept the annuity or pension is in
most countries sixty-five years.

Protection is usually afforded against old age
and incapacity. In some countries, notably in
Germany, a part of the claims of the beneficiary
are transferred to the wife and children. Mem-
bership in the scheme is confined to those who
are in some way connected with the profession of



teaching. Distributions are made in the form of
annuities, and never in the form of lump sums.
The withdrawal equity, whereby the teacher se-
cures the return of at least a part of his own con-
tributions, is recognized in all the funds that are
supported partly by dues. In general the allow-
ance of the teacher is larger when the support is
joint, and a marked tendency in the later schemes
has been to require partial support of the annuity
by the beneficiary, in keeping with the spirit and
practice of compulsory insurance against old age
and invalidism.

Almost everywhere in Europe the state sys-
tems of teachers' retirement allowances are
strengthened by schemes of certification stand-
ardizing the qualifications which the employees
of the pubHc schools must have on entering the
service. In this way many of the imfit are elim-
inated, who otherwise might be attracted to the
work by the pension or annuity. Realizing that
the retirement allowance succeeds in its purpose
only as it is able to attract and hold competent
teachers in the schools, laws and administrative
regulations have been passed which insure per-
manent tenure to the capable instructor, and
work toward securing the dismissal of the incom-



While the results are necessarily difi5cult to
measure, the prevailing belief in European na-
tions is that retirement allowances for teachers
are a good business investment, because they
have improved the teaching service in the schools
more than would an equal expenditure in any
other way, while at the same time thrift has been
promoted, compulsory saving has been advanced,
and the state has protected itself, to some extent
at least, against the social burden of supporting
some old teachers at the close of their period of
usefulness in the classroom.

Retirement allowances for teachers, like those
for every other class, are, practically speak-
ing, innovations in this country. The schemes
through which they are supported and bestowed
are not only of a variable type, but also experi-
mental and imperfect. The areas in which these
systems are in operation are almost negligible in
comparison with the territory in which no teach-
ers' retirement schemes obtain; yet, from the
standpoint of the population and the number of
teachers affected, the growing prevalence of an-
nuities and pensions to worthy teachers is start-
ling to those who have never had the statistics
placed before them.

Twenty- three states have legislated, to agreater



or less extent, upon the question of teachers' re-
tirement allowances, nine of which, having a
population of almost twenty- three million people
and employing upwards of seventy thousand
teachers, have complete state retirement systems
covering every public-school teacher within their
boundaries. Nineteen of the largest cities in the
country, having more than one ninth of our total
population and employing one twelfth of our
entire force of public-school teachers, support
teachers' retirement ventures of varying type,
created and regulated by state enactment. More
than thirty-five per cent of our population en-
joy the educational benefits to be derived from
such funds, while thirty per cent of the entire
teaching force of the pubhc schools of the United
States have the opportunity to protect them-
selves against one or more of the five great risks
of life.

As has been pointed out, state- wide teachers'
retirement systems have been set up by ten states,
— Maryland, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New
York, Virginia, Arizona, Vermont, Maine, Mass-
achusetts, and California. All of these, save
Maryland, Rhode Island, Arizona, and Maine,
which have pension schemes supported entirely
by the state, are ventures in compulsory insur-



ance, the beneficiary being required to support the
fund, in part at least, by dues. When this com-
pulsory insurance for teachers was inaugurated,
membership was made optional for those already
in the service and obligatory for all those entering
the service after a given date. No distinction is
made between old teachers and new teachers as to
either dues or annuity, save in New Jersey, where
the new teachers are assessed two per cent of their
salary, while the dues of old teachers range from
two to three per cent on a sliding scale based on
years of service.

In all of these state systems, the benefits are
limited to those employed as teachers, usually
including supervisors and superintendents. Vir-
ginia and Maine do not cover county or city
superintendents. In Maryland, New Jersey,
Rhode Island, New York, and Maine, teachers
in state normal schools are included in the
scheme. Nowhere are employees of the schools,
other than those engaged in teaching or the super-
vision of teaching, recognized. Everywhere the
tendency in the legislation has been to provide a
retirement allowance for all persons employed
in the profession of teaching by schools sup-
ported at public expense.

Maryland, Rhode Island, Arizona, and Maine


give entire support to their schemes through ap-
propriations from the state treasury made from
time to time when necessary. New York assesses
dues of one per cent on the salary of the teachers,
meeting the remainder of the expense out of the
state treasury supplemented by gifts, donations,
and legacies. Virginia, with a similar plan, limits
to five thousand dollars the annual appropriation
to be made by the legislature, if any appropria-
tion is necessary; and Vermont, to ten thousand
dollars. New Jersey has a system of retirement
allowances for teachers whereby the beneficiary
practically supports a state annuity and the state
pays a pension; the commonwealth paying the
administrative expenses of the system, leaving
the teachers to maintain the annuity fund by an
assessment upon salaries ranging from two to
three per cent, supplemented by gifts, donations,
legacies, and the interest of such invested funds.
Maryland gives a straight pension of two hun-
dred dollars per year. All the others base the re-
tirement allowance in some way on the teacher's
salary at or about the time of retirement. In
New Jersey the state system calculates annuities
on the basis of sixty per cent of the average an-
nual salary for five years preceding retirement.
This annuity must not be less than two hundred



and fifty dollars nor more than six hundred and
fifty dollars. Local pension systems supported
entirely by the communities of New Jersey pay a
retired teacher a pension equal to fifty per cent
of the average annual salary during the last five
years of service. New York, Rhode Island, and
Virginia provide annuities equal to fifty per cent
of the average annual salary for five years pre-
ceding retirement.

New York sets a minimum of two hundred
dollars, below which the annual allowance may
not go, and no teacher can receive an annual
amount of more than four hundred dollars.
Rhode Island restricts the maximum allowance
to five hundred dollars. Virginia pays four hun-
dred dollars in the case of ordinary teachers and
five hundred dollars for principals. Maine pays
a flat pension of two hundred and fifty dollars
for thirty-five years' service, two hundred dollars
for thirty years' service, and one hundred and
fifty dollars for twenty-five years' service in the
state. In Arizona the state board of education
may pension any teacher who has served in the
state twenty-five years. The amount is fixed at
six hundred dollars. Massachusetts guarantees a
minimum retirement allowance of three hundred
dollars. All retirement allowances are annual


amounts instead of lump sums, and are distrib-
uted quarterly.

In general, it may be said that only Virginia
attempts to cover the two great risks of old age
and disability. Maryland and the state annuity
scheme of New Jersey protect against disability
only, by retiring the teacher who becomes dis-
abled or incompetent: in Maryland, after serving
twenty-five years in the schools of the state and
reaching the age of sixty years; in New Jersey,
at any time after the expiration of twenty years
regardless of the age of the beneficiary. The
local pension scheme of New Jersey safeguards
the old age of the teacher by providing for his
voluntary retirement after thirty-five years of
service in the state ; Rhode Island enables teach-
ers to retire voluntarily after reaching the age of
sixty if they have given thirty-five years of total
service, of which twenty-five were devoted to the
state; Virginia affords an opportunity for volun-
tary retirement after twenty-five years of service
with involuntary retirement after twenty years.

No provision is made by any of the states for a
partial participation by a teacher who becomes
disabled for any reason while in the service at the
close of five or ten or even fifteen years of em-
ployment. Only those who remain in the service,



escaping accident and retaining good health for
the full period required by the law, are permitted
to benefit by the annuity or pension. In the pen-
sion schemes of Maryland and Rhode Island the
teacher who retires before completing the period
of service and reaching the age required by law
has, of course, no right to any withdrawal equity
or return of any contributions, since he has made
none; but there is no recognition of this equity in
the annuity schemes supported practically wholly
by the teachers in New Jersey or in part by dues
in Virginia and New York.

New Jersey and Arizona make no requirement
concerning the personal character or record of
the beneficiary. In Maryland, in Maine, in the
state annuity scheme of New Jersey, and in Ver-
mont, he must be incapacitated in order to re-
ceive benefits; while in Virginia he must be dis-
abled if retired after twenty years of service, or
he may retire voluntarily after twenty-five years.
In the other states the conditions of retire-
ment are length of service and age. Maryland
requires the beneficiary to be sixty years of
age and to have completed twenty-five years of
service within the state; Rhode Island, sixty
years of age and thirty-five years of service,
twenty-five of these being in the state; the New


Jersey state annuity system, no age, but at least
twenty years of service in the commonwealth
before becoming incapacitated; the New Jersey
local pension system, no age, but thirty-five
years of service within the state, twenty of which
must have been spent in the work of the district
supporting the allowance. The annuity begins
in New York upon disability after fifteen years
of service; the teacher may retire voluntarily
without disabihty at the close of twenty-five
years of service and benefit by the fund. Massa-
chusetts requires at least fifteen years of service.
prior to July i, 1914, and thirty years' service
from teachers entering the service after that date.
Teachers must be sixty years of age, or over, at
time of retirement.

The state pension systems of Maryland, Rhode
Island, Arizona, and Maine, carried on entirely
at public expense, are controlled entirely by the
public through the state board of education for
each commonwealth. Virginia alone fails to give
the teachers who contribute to a state annuity
scheme any voice in its control and administra-
t'on, the management there being likewise in-
vested in the state board of education. In the
New Jersey state annuity system the joint repre-
sentation of the teachers and the public is secured


through a board of trustees of the retirement
fund, composed of nine members, five of whom are
elected by the teaching membership of the fund in
annual convention, and four of whom represent
the public, appointed by the governor. The state
annuity fund of New York is administered by a
retirement fund board consisting of five members,
appointed by the commissioner of education,
three of whom must be members of the teaching
profession and one of whom must be a woman.

Some states have passed what might be called
permissive laws, allowing cities and towns to
set up local pension schemes for the benefit of
their own schools and teachers. In 1908 Massa-
chusetts authorized all cities and towns other
than Boston, if the voters approve at popular
election, to pay pensions from pubhc funds, and
Boston has a retirement allowance system regu-
lated by state law. Pennsylvania authorizes
cities in the second and third classes to establish
retirement funds, and apparently to appropriate
public money therefor; and Minnesota provides
that, in cities of over fifty thousand inhabitants,
funds for retirement may be raised in part by

In Ohio the board of education of any district
may establish a pension fund; participation is


optional with teachers, and the funds are to be
derived in part from salary deductions and in
part from the appropriation of from one to two
per cent of the gross receipts of the said board
from taxation. California and Utah have retire-
ment laws which are similar, inasmuch as they
are local and voluntary in their appHcation, and
are based largely upon assessments, the only pro-
vision for contribution from public funds relat-
ing to certain amounts forfeited by teachers for
absence, etc. In Colorado, districts containing a
school population of over one thousand may es-
tablish public-school teachers' retirement funds,

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Online LibraryCharles A. (Charles Allen) ProsserThe teacher and old age → online text (page 1 of 8)