By Kevin Hickerson
I came to this county 13 years ago looking for an opportunity to teach high school special education. I did my research of all the Northern Virginia counties and compared their salary and benefits. One of the pieces of compensation that I found to be particularly interesting was the local defined benefit retirement (ERFC). No other county that I knew of had this in their package. I was happy to know that when I retired, I would be in pretty decent financial shape with the VRS and ERFC together.
Things have changed over time, and now the county is wrestling with the notion of how retirement should be handled. FCPS, to me, does not do the best job of selling this important economic benefit to its potential recruits. When you go to Great Beginnings at the start of the school year and go past the vendors, the ERFC is put on the back burner in a hallway where not a lot of new teachers visit. You have to go out of your way to find it. At a recent job fair, I was amazed that the ERFC was not being put on display for the new recruits, especially when you have career changers who are looking for a stable retirement. Then the School Board wonders why employees are not more familiar with this excellent benefit.
A few years ago, the Virginia legislature made the VRS a hybrid plan for new teachers that would be less valuable to employees. The economic insecurity this will cause has not necessarily dawned on the current employees that live under this system. The ERFC, though, has been kept steady, and this will help offset the loss of income from the VRS. How is it fair to not only have the VRS changes made in the last couple of years but to also change the ERFC on the backs of those very same non-vested (zero to five years completed as of July 1st, 2017) employees?
That is why it is so important to keep ERFC the way it is so FCPS can maintain and recruit the best teachers.
We are only one week away from when the FCPS School Board will be making decisions on how your retirement will look in the future. They are poised to put the changes squarely on the backs of non-vested employees.
We need to stand together to fix this!
Call and email the School Board and tell them to keep their hands off of ERFC. Come to Luther Jackson on April 27th at 7pm and wear blue to show your support of a lasting benefit that can keep good teachers from leaving. It’s up to us to help ourselves.