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Education Reporter

Union Encourages Professors to 'Double Dip' at Taxpayer Expense
About a thousand retired professors and librarians in the California State University (CSU) system take part in a program that allows them to simultaneously collect both a pension and a paycheck while working minimal hours. CSU's Faculty Early Retirement Program (FERP) has been criticized for encouraging retired professors to return to the classroom, where they collect generous salaries in positions that would otherwise be staffed more economically by qualified part-time faculty. Union officials have blocked university-led efforts to reform the taxpayer-funded system, which allows faculty members to work part-time for up to five years after retirement.
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Program proponents say FERP saves the university money by keeping senior faculty on campus while shifting expenses to the pension system. "It was started as a way to help senior faculty to move into retirement slowly and use them to mentor new faculty," said Andy Merrifield, a collective bargaining chief for the California Faculty Association (CFA), a union which represents 23,000 CSU faculty members. "With the savings on the FERP members, campuses could hire new faculty." "It's a win-win," said Kevin Wehr, president of the CFA's Sacramento chapter. "It allows for Sac State to retain highly qualified, talented senior faculty while having them work part time."

Many FERP participants collect more than their previous part-time salaries, making the program an attractive choice for senior professors who are eager to reduce their workload. Critics argue that asking California taxpayers to pay faculty members more money for less work is "ridiculous." Marcia Fritz, president of the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility, said the program is unfair to the taxpayers who must pay teacher salaries: All it is, is a budget accounting trick that takes from systems that taxpayers are going to be on the hook for either way . . . No one in their right mind would encourage an employee to retire early, work less and make more money. It doesn't make sense.

Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, agrees:

It's examples like this that make taxpayers unhappy about the pension system in California. When someone retires one week and shows up for work on Monday — even if it is part-time work — it is a reflection of a system with a low retirement age.

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