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Head of school retirement system defends state spending

Yoakum calls Associated Press story misleading

August 28, 2013 - JEFFERSON CITY — The executive director of the Missouri Public School Retirement System called a national story by The Associated Press misleading on Aug. 27 because it listed Missouri as a state where private workers receive state pensions.

The story included Missouri in a list of 20 states where private sector workers receive state-covered pensions.

Steve Yoakum said while the story was technically correct, only 36 of the nearly 80,000 active employees of PSRS, the retirement system covering public school teachers, actually receive state pension coverage. A Missouri law also prevents any future private organization from being included. Yoakum said that meant no more new employees would be added.

"There are a very de minimus (small) number of people that are effected anyways, and that number will actually go away over the years because of a change in the law," Yoakum said.

School employee retirement benefit coverage was being provided to five private organizations that work in education. The organizations include the Missouri State Teachers Association, the Missouri Council of School Administrators and the Missouri High School Activities Association.

The chair of the House Government Oversight Committee said the practice should stop.

"Lobbyists for private entities don't deserve public pensions paid for by Missouri taxpayers," said Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City.

Former Republican state Sen. Jason Crowell, who chaired the Senate's committee dealing with retirement issues, said he believes private sector workers collecting public tax dollars is a rampant practice throughout federal, state and city government. He said money that goes toward administration and lobbying would be better spent inside the classroom.

"You don't do anything other than lobby Jeff City. And we're allowing each year that they're employed in those special interest organizations to collect state benefits," Crowell said.

The only members of PSRS eligible for government pensions under state law are those who used to be teachers. Yoakum said PSRS pays the state pension money given to its workers back into the public retirement system. That would mean that no tax dollars would actually be spent on these employees.

Yoakum said he did not know if any PSRS members receiving government pensions served as lobbyists.

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