Source: National Institute on Retirement Security

A report delivered to the Alaska Department of Education reviews the impacts of various retirement benefit offerings on the recruitment and retention of Alaska’s public education employees.

Alaska Teacher Recruitment and Retention Study: Options and Analysis Supporting Retirement Plan Design, finds that switching Alaska’s public employees from defined benefit pension plans to 401(k)-style defined contribution accounts resulted in more public educators leaving their positions. The research comes as teacher shortages plague Alaska and communities across the country.

The study benchmarks retirement benefit offerings among state-level plans in Alaska and nationwide, and it analyzes the evolution of public retirement plans since the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009. Using available information about the retention of Alaska’s educational workforce, the report offers insights on the policy decisions involved with returning to defined benefit pensions.

In 2005, Alaska closed its two statewide defined benefit pension plans for teachers and public employees in a misguided effort to manage the unfunded liability. Since July 1, 2006, all new Alaska hires participate in a defined contribution plans rather than a pension plan. The retirement plan change did not address the funding shortfall, and it also had the unintended consequence of creating workforce recruitment and retention challenges for public employers. The lack of a defined benefit pension plan and competitive benefits often is directly cited as a major reason why Alaska struggles to recruit teachers, state troopers, and other public employees.