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Pension costs dominate education conversation in Harrisburg, amid other competing priorities

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    Lindsay Lazarski (WHYY/NewsWorks)

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Much of the debate in Harrisburg this summer has been centered on how Pennsylvania should overcome its $2.2 billion deficit.

But, as usual, there has also been a great deal of focus on issues related to public school funding and policy.

The summer began with fanfare in the Capitol rotunda. On June 12, a compromise on a long debated effort to overhaul the retirement system for teachers and state workers was made official.

Gov. Wolf and the legislature agreed on a plan affecting new hires only that eliminates what workers currently get: a full, guaranteed pension payout upon retirement. Instead, those hired after July 1, 2019, will have the choice of a few options that will give them a split between a pension and a 401(k).

"Simply put, this bill is a win for Pennsylvania taxpayers; it's also fair to Pennsylvania's workforce, and I will be proud to sign it," Wolf said, standing before a large crowd of lawmakers.

The measure goes a long way to protect taxpayers decades into the future, who will now avoid carrying the full risk of the stock market. In a downturn, new hires will shoulder a chunk of those losses instead of leaving state government and school districts fully on the hook.

Read the rest of this story at Newsworks

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Kevin McCorry

Kevin is WHYY/NewsWorks' senior education writer.