Charles A. (Charles Allen) Prosser.

The teacher and old age online

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engaged in it, thus creating an attitude of mind
favorable to good work; by the timely with-
drawal of those who have given full service and



are no longer able to meet the demands of the

The European experience shows that teach-
ers' retirement allowances have accomplished
these results far better than if many times their
cost to the public had been applied to an increase
in wage. Teachers' retirement allowances are in
a sense deferred payments for services, which
justify themselves as a wise business investment
on the part of the state. In addition, it seems
probable that annuities holding the beneficiary
longer in the service would insure a more per-
manent staff of teachers and tend to increase
the length of the tenure of employment, a move
in the direction of a wider civil service in the

There is danger in some quarters to-day that a
few of the over-zealous friends of teachers' an-
nuities may, forgetting their real justification,
support arguments as to retirement allowances
which, if not false and misleading, do not go to
the real merits of the question.

It is sometimes urged that teaching is an un-
derpaid profession. This statement, however,
must be examined always in the light of stand-
ards under prevalent conditions. The teachers
in the city are paid much better salaries than



those in the country, but living conditions in the
city are more costly than those in the country.
Teachers in the Western States are as a rule paid
better than those in Eastern States, but in the
West there is a relative scarcity of people seeking
to enter this calling, whereas in the East there
seems to be usually a considerable surplus of
available candidates for positions.

Those employing teachers assert that there is
a constant scarcity of those who have had ade-
quate training or approved experience, and those
towns paying the highest salaries claim that they
find it most difficult to procure people reach-
ing the standard of excellence which they desire.
Obviously, then, if teaching is underpaid, it is so
relatively, not as contrasted with the supply of
candidates available at any given time, but as
determined by the standards of employment
which prevail. The so-called "disappearance"
of men from the teaching profession is not due
to the fact that the same men find better em-
ployment elsewhere, but rather it is due to the
fact that the rise of the standards of profes-
sional quality demanded render it less and less
possible for communities to obtain the type of
man desired.

The increased cost of living in recent years is



sometimes urged as an argument in aid of teach-
ers' retirement allowances. This argument again
fails to recognize that the increased cost of living
affects practically all classes of workers, and per-
haps in equal degree, although it seems probable
that salaries do not keep pace with the upward
trend of prices as adequately as do the wages
of the skilled workman. Teachers' salaries have
advanced in recent years, but whether they have
advanced proportionately to the compensation
given in other callings is a fact that is not yet
proved. It may be assumed that conditions of
competition operate in teaching as well as in
other fields, and certainly the increased cost of
living, as contrasted with the compensations of
teaching, do not seem to operate in such a way as
to bar the entrance of people to the calling of

It is often argued that, because the state has
encouraged certain specific types of compensa-
tion for retirement in the case of particular
groups of employees, thereby a precedent has
been established for a similar system for teachers.
This claim ignores the fact that the state may
have been mistaken in setting up a particular
system of compensation for retirement. All, in-
cluding teachers, are under a certain obligation



to see to it that any action taken in the future is
along lines that are fundamentally right.

It is also frequently urged that teaching is a
calling imposing greater hardship and liability
of earlier breakdown than other calhngs. This
may be true for certain classes of workers, but
anything like scientific evidence in its favor is
still lacking. Such callings as those of the nurse,
physician, and the various trades sometimes lead
to as early incapacity as teaching.

From the standpoint of general policy those
who seek to promote teachers' pensions will do
well to treat the entire question of teachers' re-
tirement allowances as a venture in the field of
compulsory social insurance, whose underlying
principles are, as has already been intimated,
that all persons should be required by law to in-
sure themselves against the various contingen-
cies of life, and that the employing authority
should, in all cases where the annuity operates for
the benefit of his business, be required to con-
tribute in part to the cost of maintaining it.

It is true that the time is not ripe to discuss
teachers' retirement allowances in terms of a
comprehensive scheme of compulsory insurance;
if it were, then protection against the risks of
sickness, accident, disabiUty, and death, as well as


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against old age and incapacity, must be afforded ;
provision for the early retirement of teachers for
disability must be made; teachers must be re-
quired to take out insurance for the protection
of those dependent upon them in case of death.
Inasmuch as the retirement allowances for teach-
ers on account of incapacity due to old age or
disability are being rapidly adopted in this coun-
try, we can deal with them in terms of compulsory
insurance and apply to them the principles and
standards of such insurance which have gained
common acceptance only by regarding the whole
matter of teachers' retirement allowances as
an experiment in compulsory insurance. Will it
be possible to approach the question from the
triple, yet common, standpoint of the welfare of
the worker, the efficiency of the teaching pro-
fession, and the protection of society against
poverty and dependency ?

The teacher should contribute to the support of
his own retire^nent allowance

A part of the expense of the retirement allowance
should he home hy the beneficiary. The Massachu-
setts Commission on Old- Age Pensions (i 910) de-
clared this principle to be fundamental and vital.
The State of Massachusetts has appUed it in the



present retirement system for its employees.
The same commission reported strongly against
the noncontributory pension for public employ-
ees because of the heavy expense of such a pol-
icy, holding this objection to be an especially
weighty one *'in view of the large increase of
public expenditures and public indebtedness in
Massachusetts during recent years," and because
such an expense would be needless, since "public
employees can well afford to pay at least some
part of the cost of a retirement system"; and
holding further that any noncontributory pen-
sion must exert a depressing effect on wages, a
demoralizing reaction on character, and a disin-
tegrating influence on the family.

The commission declared that "a policy which
threatened social consequences of so sweepingly
harmful a character is not one that the state, the
county, the city, or the town as an employer can
afford to sanction," and that ''the dubious pol-
icy of noncontributory pensions should not be
encouraged by the example of the municipality
or of the state." After pointing out that the
straight pensions supported by the public in the
state have usually been given to those employed
in occupations involving an unusual degree of
danger, devotion, and sacrifice, the report de-



Clares that, "whatever may be done in the
future toward the extension of pensions, provi-
sions for all classes of public employees should be
on the contributory basis."

Experience shows that the noncontributory
pension for teachers is usually not large enough
to afford an adequate protection against old age
and incapacity. The tendency in those state sys-
tems which have given pensions, hke those of
Maryland and Rhode Island, is to reduce the
heavy expense of public maintenance by grant-
ing an allowance too small to afford even a mini-
mum of comfort to the beneficiary. On the other
hand, in those states like New Jersey and New
York, where the teachers pay dues toward the
support of their own protection, the annuity is
sufficient to insure them against want and de-

The contributory principle is best for the wel-
fare of the teacher, because it guarantees inde-
pendence in old age and makes it possible for
him to protect adequately those dependent upon
him. It should be appHed by the state as the em-
ployer seeking to better the service, since retire-
ment allowances will accompHsh good results in
the improvement of the service in proportion as
they afford an adequate protection against the


failing years of life. When the state takes hold
of the retirement system, it should require the
worker to pay toward the support of his annuity,
not only to encourage thrift and promote saving,
but also to make it certain that in his last days
he may not become a burden on society.

That part of the annuity which comes from
the dues paid by the teacher adds, of course, noth-
ing to his total wage directly. The withdrawal
equity should always be recognized whereby the
teacher, upon withdrawal before legal retirement,
has returned to him his own contributions, to-
gether with reasonable interest. Then state
compulsion and management of his contributions
toward his own annuity does benefit him during
his working period, by forcing him to make pro-
vision for the future, by developing a spirit and
habit of thrift, by securing for him high-class in-
surance at the lowest possible cost, by guaran-
teeing the solvency of the insurance scheme, and
by developing a security of tenure of position
that grows measurably with the increase of his
equity in the insurance attached to the business.
The operation of compulsory insurance under
these conditions is such as to preserve in the high-
est measure the self-respect of the worker, and
to better, rather than impair, the prestige and



standing in public opinion of the profession or
calling he follows.

Aside from moral and social considerations, it
makes little if any difference in the long run
whether the public or the teacher pays the cost
of the retirement allowance, or in what proportion
each contributes. This is particularly true in the
case of those hereafter entering the profession.
In setting the wage and bargaining with a new
employee, the school authorities will, either
directly or unconsciously, take into considera-
tion the cost of the public contribution to the
retirement allowance as a real though somewhat
vaguely defined part of his total wage. In this
way the concession of public support would be-
come a factor in each new wage adjustment as
certainly and as potently as any other portion of
his wage compensation.

On the other hand, the new teacher facing
employment soon comes to look upon his total
actual salary as made up of a current salary
received from month to month, a deferred sal-
ary composed of amounts withheld from his own
earnings and invested as savings for him, and
deferred payments for service in the form of
public contributions toward a retirement allow-
ance, to be received at some time in the future,


for continuous, faithful service. The immediate
placing in operation of a retirement system
operates to diminish the salary of the bene-
ficiary, but in the long run this is not the case.
After a system of this sort has been in operation
for some time, the deduction from the employee's
salary would so operate as to be largely a nominal

Withdrawal equity and annuity

The withdrawal equity of the teacher in his own
payments toward his annuity should be recog-
nized. When he retires from the profession for
any reason, dues withheld from his wage should
be regarded as deferred payments invested by
the state for his benefit. He is as justly entitled
to the present worth of such a saving as if it had
been deposited by him and invested by a sav-
ings bank; otherwise the state cannot defend a
program of compulsory insurance as a means of
promoting thrift, encouraging saving, and safe-
guarding old age. Young teachers who may not
and usually do not remain in the profession ought
not to be mulcted or penalized, even to the ex-
tent of the smallest part of their savings, for the
benefit of those who do. The recognition of this
equity will operate to preserve that mobility of the



teaching profession that has proved so desirable
on the whole to the American schools, since
teachers shifting from one position or state to
another would not be deterred by the prospect of
the complete loss of their payments.

Annuities only should be used in making pay-
ments for any cause to the beneficiaries of the
retirement system. As a venture in social insur-
ance the scheme must have due regard for the
protection of the beneficiary against old age and
dependency. Payments of the total amount, in
the form of a lump sum representing the present
worth of the claims of the beneficiary, are highly
objectionable, because there is danger, and in
many cases every probability, that the money
will be lost either through unwise investments or
unwise expenditures of one kind or another. How-
ever able some may be to take care of their own
money, the state must protect against losing their
savings those who are less capable of making in-
vestments. The principle of annual distributions,
paid, say, in monthly or quarterly installments,
should be applied both to the accumulated sav-
ings of the teacher and to the pension added
by the public. When a teacher has served long
enough to become a risk on the funds, payments
after withdrawal for any cause should be in terms



of annual amounts certain to continue at least
until the death of the beneficiary.

The Retirement System for Massachusetts State

Employees is sound in principle
Most of the general features of the state re-
tirement system of Massachusetts for its own
employees represent the best ideas in compul-
sory social insurance of to-day, and might well
serve as a model in principle in any proposed
plan of annuities for teachers. The present state
scheme is comprehensive, being open to all those
in the service of the commonwealth, and is obli-
gatory upon those hereafter entering its work.
The civil service laws, as has already been pointed
out, set up what amounts to a plan of certifica-
tion which prevents the employment of the in-
competent and insures what is practically per-
manent tenure of position during good behavior.
Upon withdrawal from the fund for any reason,
all the accumulated savings with interest com-
pounded at three per cent are returned to the
beneficiary or to his legal representative, either

in a lump sum or in the form of an annuity, the
state in no case withholding or seeking to profit
by the contributions of the membership.

The contributory principle is carried out by



making the members, through dues, save for the
support of their own annuities and by guarantee-
ing that the state will give up a full withdrawal
equity, for disability, or at the close of the full pe-
riod of service, a pension equal in amount to the
annuity. Savings are required in proportion to
income, the dues or assessments being graduated
on the basis of the salary earned. Thrift and
capacity to save are rewarded, and differences in
previously acquired standards of living are rec-
ognized by making the retirement allowance de-
pendent upon the contributions and therefore
really graduated by the customary earnings of
the beneficiary.

As a venture in social insurance, an attempt
is made to insure a decent competence for old
age by making two hundred dollars the smallest
allowance given at retirement, the minimum
contribution from the salaries of members being
set at a sum sufficient to yield during the work-
ing period of the beneficiary an annuity which,
together with an equal pension by the state,
will amount to that sum. Since the retirement
system is not interested in rewarding savings
beyond the reasonable limits necessary in order
to promote thrift, to make membership attrac-
tive, and to safeguard the closing years of life



against penury and dependency, the annuity of
the beneficiary, whatever his salary may be, can
never be larger than that earned by the accumu-
lated savings of more than seventy-eight dollars
per year, which is the maximum dues required or

The risks to be covered in a plan of retirement
allowances for teachers probably should not be
more than those undertaken in the system for
the employees of the state in Massachusetts,
which are, generally speaking, old age, incapacity
resulting from old age, and disability due to any
cause after ten years of service. There is, in addi-
tion to these, an insurance, in a sense, against the
death of the member, which is provided in two
ways. When his demise takes place while still in
the service, the accumulated savings due him are
paid in a lump sum to his estate. At full retire-
ment, the beneficiary can elect either to receive
an allowance for the number of years during
which he lives, or an annual amount for a fixed
and certain number of years, which upon the
death of the beneficiary would be paid to his
legal representatives for the unexpired time.

It seems clear that, in case the latter plan is
chosen by the retiring member, the annual allow-
ance would be less than in the former. It will, of



course, be necessary to publish for the informa-
tion of members the exact amounts and differ-
ences between these two schemes through care-
fully prepared actuarial tables. Through their
representatives on the State Retirement Fund
Board both the state and the members have a
voice in the administration of the plan, and the
management of the venture is under the close
inspection and supervision of the State Insur-
ance Commissioner.

These forms of protection seem to go as far as
any scheme of compulsory insurance should at
the present time. It is doubtful whether it would
ever be possible or wise to include much more in
any one system and fund. Even in Germany,
where wage-workers are required to protect
themselves against sickness, accident, disabihty
due to accident at any time from the outset in
any employment, and even against unemploy-
ment, the state schemes have usually undertaken
no more than insurance against old age and in-
capacity, and under certain conditions, death,
using other schemes and plans, usually of a pri-
vate or semi-pubHc character, to secure the com-
pulsory insurance of its citizens against the other
risks of life.



Membership, Certification, and Tenure

Membership to be comprehensive. In the retire-
ment system adopted, all persons should be in-
cluded who are regularly employed, either as
teachers or otherwise, in all of the schools of the
state supported and controlled by the public.
Every argument for a retirement allowance for
teachers supports equally well the proposal that
all others regularly employed in any capacity by
the schools, such as clerks, bookkeepers, steno-
graphers, engineers, and janitors, should be ad-
mitted to membership in the same scheme. An-
nuities for their benefit will be just as effective
in raising the self-respect of the worker, pro-
moting thrift, requiring saving, and safeguarding
against the risks of old age and disability, as
those for instructors in the schoolroom.

Retirement allowances for employees other
than teachers will be equally wise as a business
proposition from the standpoint of the public,
since there is no reason why they should not re-
sult in the betterment of the service by attract-
ing, holding, and retiring at the proper age, desir-
able men and women serving in positions where
good work is just as necessary to the efficiency of
the school system as in the actual teaching pro-



cess. It is equally necessary that the state should
require the clerk and the engineer of the school
building, as well as the teacher, to safeguard
themselves against old age and dependency. As
a venture in social insurance it would be both
an unjust discrimination and confusing to pro-
tect teachers with retirement allowances and
neglect all others engaged in the same business.

Certification of all new teachers by the state edu-
cational authorities is necessary if the public is
to secure the best results from the money which
it gives for the support of a system of retirement
allowances for them. Pensions or annuities of
any kind are certain to prove even more attrac-
tive to the incompetent than to the competent
instructor. Any betterment in the economic con-
dition of workmen always brings a rush of the
unfit, as well as the fit, to the work. Usually in
the competition between them the wage falls to
the old level and the good workmen are driven
from the field. In any work or business where
competition in the output of the worker is ab-
sent, standards and measures of efficiency are ill-
defined and administration is popular instead of
expert and professional, as is sometimes, at least,
the case with our schools; the inefficient but pre-
tentious and self-seeking worker is very likely to



be chosen and remain permanently in the serv-
ice to which he has been drawn by the conces-
sion of a retirement allowance, thus defeating its
large purpose of bettering the profession.

All successful attempts to improve the effi-
ciency of the schools by bettering the economic
condition of the teacher should go hand in hand
with direct selecting agencies, cutting off the rush
of the incompetent to the field. It is equally true
that to raise the qualifications workers must
have before entering any occupation will avail
but Httle unless at the same time the work is
made, through increasing the wage or some other
concession like that of a retirement allowance,
sufficiently attractive to draw to it those who are
able to meet its entrance requirements. Teach-
ers' annuities and retirement allowances in any
state where the absence of proper selecting agen-
cies operates to fill the schools with poor teachers
are worse than useless, since their only effect
would be to perpetuate the reign of the unfit.

Legislation in behalf of teachers' annuities of
any kind should go hand in hand with move-
ments raising the standards of proficiency in the
profession and eliminating the unfit. Among the
direct selecting agencies that might be used to
accomplish this purpose are medical examina-



tion of teachers, more effective supervision, more
effective adtninistrative selection of teachers,
and higher standards of certification. The time
is not ripe for a medical examination as a condi-
tion of entrance to school work, although doubt-
less some day it will be required. Supervision
and administration will better the teaching serv-
ice in the state in proportion as they are im-
proved by the efforts of local authorities every-

The absence of adequate state systems of
certification for teachers has thrown the respon-
sibility upon the community for passing upon
the qualifications of its teachers. There is no
fixed or general standard of experience, prepara-
tion, or schoolroom success recognized for the
different kinds of teaching positions. Through-
out the country the whole matter is in a chaotic
condition. Communities having a high degree of
civic spirit and responsibility secure good teach-
ers. Communities lacking these qualities are
satisfied to secure and retain poor teachers.

While the complaint is frequently made, un-
doubtedly with more or less truth, that there are
not enough good teachers to go around, the fact
remains that communities willing to pay for good
teachers invariably secure them. Obviously one


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Online LibraryCharles A. (Charles Allen) ProsserThe teacher and old age → online text (page 3 of 8)