The media continue to sound the alarm about a scandal that only came to light when KING-5 TV aired the story Freedom Foundation has been working on for months.
Simply stated, a number of teachers who’ve lost their teaching licenses for crimes committed against the very children the public has entrusted to them now receive generous pensions to the tune of well over $2 million dollars a year.
After the KING-5 airing of the original story, local radio station KIRO discussed the issue for more than 45 minutes the next day. The first segment touches on the waste while the second segment (at the 15-minute mark) included an interview.
KTTH also did a lengthy segment the next day and an interview. The common thread throughout all the radio programs isn’t so much the underlying story—but the reaction of Kit Raney, the representative from the retired teacher’s union. Incidentally, Raney is a retired teacher herself and receives about $3,500 a month in her pension—roughly the same amount many of these offenders receive.
Below is the response of Kit Raney:
Two of the most tragic cases burned in my mind in all this research are:
Craig Figley is serving 14 and a half years for pleading guilty to two counts of child molestation in the first degree (RCW 9A.44.083), one count of attempted child molestation in the first degree (RCW 9A.44.083 & 9A.28.020) and one count of possessing depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct (RCW 9.68A.070).
Figley receives $3,111 monthly while still in prison for his crimes.
Larry Pierson’s license was revoked in 2003 for strangling a child for sexual gratification while performing his duties as a teacher. Pierson receives a $3,539 monthly pension and has for about a decade. Research shows he paid $130,627 into that pension. Adding up 10 years’ worth of monthly payments shows that Pierson has more than received his contribution back, and has received over $300,000 from taxpayers.
These are two of many stories in which teachers have committed heinous crimes against the children entrusted to them. KING-5 uncovered the rest of the story when they interviewed Raney, the union spokesperson.
Her callousness is breathtaking. She claims this story is a “non-issue,” “noise” and a “distraction,” and she would fight any efforts to change the system. She says that the more important issue is more money to fund classrooms—and pay teachers from whose salaries union dues are deducted.
It’s an attempt at diversion that does nothing less than insult viewers.
As I talk with people and tell them the pension aspect of this story, their reaction is the gut reaction shown in the KING-5 report; now we can add the additional gut reaction watching a retired teachers’ union representative dismissing the commission of heinous crimes against children, spending time in prison and then receiving generous taxpayer-funded pensions as a “non-issue.”
It’s an assault on the common sense of the public—twice.
KING 5 ran an unscientific online poll the same day the story ran. Kit Raney certainly falls into the minority of those polled. Seventy-five percent of those polled by KING-5 said they do not believe child molesters should receive taxpayer-funded pensions.
If you’re a political insider and live and breathe by polls, you know it’s difficult to get any group of people to agree on anything 75 percent of the time.
As lawmakers continually beat the drum of finding savings in the state school budget and public employee pension system, closing this loophole is a small drop in the bucket, but it’s an easy fix. And it’s a good place to start.
Many states have “pension forfeiture” laws that address the very issue uncovered. It permanently severs the financial relationship with employees who have committed heinous crimes in their public service job. Taxpayer dollars are saved.
The Freedom Foundation will press on with this issue—or “non- issue.” Continued research into how to get pension forfeiture on the books in the state of Washington talking to policy makers is being discussed.
The problem has been identified; now let’s find a solution.