To the editor of THE EAGLE:

The Eagle’s editorial of Jan. 17 argues that public pension plans are no longer justifiable, laying much of its reasoning on a comparison between the public and the private sector, from which pensions have been disappearing.

What the editorial fails to acknowledge, however, is that -- at least in the case of those state employees who are public school teachers -- the "pension" under discussion is not the same animal as "pensions" in the private sector.

Teachers in Massachusetts do not contribute to or become eligible to receive Social Security. The pension is in lieu of Social Security. Some teachers may also choose to participate in 403-B plans, but the schools do not contribute to these, and for many, if not most, the state pension is the only income expected after retirement.

The editorial also implies that these pensions put an undue burden on taxpayers and municipalities, but that isn’t true. We pay 11 percent of our pay toward our pensions. Today’s teachers fund more than 95 percent of the costs of our own pensions while the state pays very little.

State officials have acknowledged and addressed the state’s past unfunded pension liability, caused by failing to put away money for future costs, and a schedule is in place for making the system healthy and whole. Disrupting that system would cost the taxpayers millions of dollars a year, and would be grossly unfair to public employees, for whom the pension is not a perk but their primary retirement, as Social Security is for those in the private sector.


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LISKEN VAN PELT DUS

Pittsfield