Georgia’s $90 billion teacher pension system has seen big COVID recovery



Next year’s state budget proposal includes an extra $66 million for Georgia’s massive teacher and university pension system to keep it on solid financial footing.

But after not meeting its assumed rate of investment return in fiscal 2020 — which ended June 30 — the more than $90 billion Teachers Retirement System has made a strong recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic, as did the investment markets it relies on to make sure it can pay pensions to 137,000 former educators.

A similar program that provides pensions to 50,000 state employees — the Employees Retirement System — saw a similar bounce back.

Buster Evans, executive director of the TRS and a former school superintendent, told a legislative retirement committee Tuesday that the teacher system saw a return on investments in 2020 of about 15%, which is pretty close to the return for the S&P 500-stock index.

“We are glad we had a V-shaped recovery,” Evans said.

That’s good news for a system relied on by more than 400,000 former and current educators to provide retirement benefits.

The system has had its ups and downs in recent years, with the state having to make huge contributions at times to keep the books in good shape. Those taxpayer contributions have prompted Republican lawmakers to raise the possibility of making changes to the pension programs, something teacher groups have fought off.

When the markets plummeted at the beginning of the pandemic, the system’s assets lost billions of dollars in value.

“There was a sick feeling in my stomach,” Evans told the TRS board last year.

But the TRS has ridden the wave of market gains since then.

Author: James Salzer

Publication Date: 3 February 2021

Publication Site: Atlanta Journal-Constitution