By Representative Rodney Davis (IL-13)
A 2009 study placed American students 25th out of 34 countries in math and science. We were behind nations like China, South Korea, Hong Kong and others. As we work to improve our education system to compete internationally, I believe recruiting teachers from industries specializing in math and science is critical for the future. Unfortunately, we are doing just the opposite. We have two 30-year-old policies in place that unintentionally discourage people from becoming public servants, like teachers, and punish those who are.
The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO) were included in the Social Security Act of 1983 to help shore up the Social Security program. I believe this has done little to secure the program and, instead, unfairly reduces the Social Security benefits of millions of public employees. On April 26, 2013, I introduced legislation, H.R. 1795, the Social Security Fairness Act, to repeal these arcane policies.
Nearly 1.5 million people are affected by the WEP, which reduces the earned Social Security benefits of an individual who also receives a public pension from a job not covered by Social Security. For example, a teacher who spends his or her summers working a second job or a police officer who leaves the force after 20 years of service but is not quite ready to retire can see their benefits reduced by as much as 40 percent. However, a similar worker with a private sector pension would not see this kind of reduction. In my home state of Illinois alone, more than 77,000 teachers, firefighters, police officers and other public employees see their benefits reduced.
In 2012, the GPO reduced by two-thirds the Social Security benefits received by nearly 600,000 surviving spouses who also collect a government pension. More than 42,000 of those impacted live in Illinois, a state where public employee pensions have an unfunded liability of more than $100 billion without an end in sight.
I believe Social Security is a promise made to hard working Americans – a promise that must be kept. We need to improve our economy to get folks back to work and paying into the program so our children and grandchildren have access to the same social safety net. As a new member of Congress, I will work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to keep these promises made to seniors and it starts by passing H.R. 1795.
As a father of three children attending public school, I want them to have access to the best educators just as kids attending private schools. H.R. 1795 will not only give our public servants the certainty they deserve but a chance to recruit and retain the best, brightest and most dedicated educators so America can continue to compete.