Pension Flexibility: Alaska

Retaining Effective Teachers Policy


The state should ensure that pension systems are portable, flexible and fair to all teachers.

Best Practice
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Pension Flexibility: Alaska results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:

Analysis of Alaska's policies

Alaska provides defined contribution pension plans for teachers. As of July 1, 2006, this is the only type of plan available to new teachers in Alaska. This plan is fully portable, flexible and fair to all workers.

Vesting in a defined contribution plan entitles teachers to permanent rights to their own contributions and any available employer contributions. Teachers in Alaska vest immediately in their own contributions and the earnings from their contributions' investments. They are vested in employer contributions based on the following schedule: 25 percent after two years of service, 50 percent after three years, 75 percent after four years and 100 percent after five years. This means that after three years, the vesting point recommended by NCTQ, teachers earn a 3.5 percent employer contribution. While ideally teachers would be entitled to their full employer contribution at this point, Alaska's sliding scale is a reasonable compromise.


Recommendations for Alaska

Maintain its fully portable, flexible and fair pension system.
Alaska should maintain its defined contribution system and work diligently to educate teachers about their investments, especially because teachers in Alaska do not contribute to Social Security and may more heavily depend on their employer pension than other retirees.

State response to our analysis

Alaska recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.

Research rationale

NCTQ's analysis of the financial sustainability of state pension system is based on actuarial benchmarks promulgated by government and private accounting standards boards. For more information see U.S. Government Accountability Office, 2007, 30 and Government Accounting Standards Board Statement No. 25.

For an overview of the current state of teacher pensions, the various incentives they create, and suggested solutions, see Robert Costrell and Michael Podgursky. "Reforming K-12 Educator Pensions: A Labor Market Perspective." TIAA-CREF Institute (2011).

For evidence that retirement incentives do have a statistically significant effect on retirement decisions, see Joshua Furgeson, Robert P. Strauss, and William B. Vogt. "The Effects of Defined Benefit Pension Incentives and Working Conditions on Teacher Retirement Decisions", Education Finance and Policy (Summer, 2006).

For examples of how teacher pension systems inhibit teacher mobility, see Robert Costrell and Michael Podgursky, "Golden Handcuffs," Education Next, (Winter, 2010).

For additional information on state pension systems, see Susanna Loeb, and Luke Miller. "State Teacher Policies: What Are They, What Are Their Effects, and What Are Their Implications for School Finance?" Stanford University: Institute for Research on Education Policy and Practice (2006); and Janet Hansen, "Teacher Pensions: A Background Paper", published through the Committee for Economic Development (May, 2008).

For further evidence supporting NCTQ's teacher pension standards, see "Public Employees' Retirement System of the State of Nevada: Analysis and Comparison of Defined Benefit and Defined Contribution Retirement Plans." The Segal Group (2010).