Goal: An effective public retirement system is governed in a transparent and understandable manner that represents the interests of all stakeholders, including both current and future beneficiaries and all other taxpayers.

Reality: PERA’s board does not adequately represent PERA members who are early in their careers. This means that those public servants do not have a say in how their retirement plan is operated.

In addition, the state’s contribution and benefit structures for PERA are excessively complex and, as a result, the topic is daunting to most PERA members, policymakers and the broader public. This extreme complexity effectively excludes most stakeholders from a measured or thoughtful discussion of the issue and gives disproportionate influence to a relatively small number of experts who are steeped in the arcane details – typically because they have a vested interest in a particular outcome.

It also means that, if things aren’t going according to plan, there’s not a clear way for the public to become aware of problems and advocate for reforms to get the plan back on track.

Finally, the state retirement system’s current structure allows policymakers to push long-term funding challenges far into the future, reducing any pressure they might have had to make tough, but necessary, choices in the short-term. This means that politicians are able to make promises today on which they have no intention to deliver.

Back-to-School Brian

Brian enjoyed his three years as a middle school science teacher, but realized he couldn’t ignore his dream of going back to school to become a doctor. After getting accepted to medical school, Brian finds out he won’t receive any of the school district’s contribution to his PERA benefits.

PERA Profile
Years teaching in Colorado classrooms: 3

Brian’s lifetime benefit under the current structure: $1,925

Brian’s lifetime benefit with a smooth accrual plan: $17,436

Brian earns $15,510 less under the current PERA structure