New pension law will ease cost burden on St. Louis public schools | Education

Public schools in St. Louis will benefit from a new law that will ease the city school district’s swelling pension costs — costs that administrators argue have been diverting millions of more dollars from classrooms to the city school retirement fund.

The changes will allow the district to reduce pension contributions at the cost of employees, who will gradually shoulder a higher percentage of their pay for retirement benefits.

This legislative relief, combined with the passage of a $155 million bond issue in 2010 and a tax levy increase in 2016, adds to a list of financial victories for St. Louis Public Schools even as the district continues to lose hundreds of students each year.

“With the passing of the tax issue, and the bond issue in 2010, these put the district in a better financial condition than in the last 30 years,” said Richard Gaines, member of the St. Louis Public Schools Special Administrative Board.

Financial instability was one of the key problems that ailed the district when the state took it over in 2007. Back then, the district was suffering from a multimillion-dollar deficit. Now there is a surplus.

In recent years, the district’s state-appointed Special Administrative Board has allied with district Superintendent Kelvin Adams and the district’s teachers union, American Federation of Teachers Local 420, in pursuit of ways to garner millions of dollars for the once financially stressed district, including this pension law change.

The small part of the new pension law that benefits the district, which Gov. Eric Greitens signed on Friday, was a direct product of lobbying by the Special Administrative Board.

The district is still in pursuit of one more major financial effort: the controversial lawsuit to reclaim more than $50 million of desegregation dollars from the state, which…

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