(03/10/2008)
The West Virginia Legislature did not come to terms with what to do about a 401-K teacher retirement fund that apparently has yielded poor results for thousands of WV teachers that enrolled in the program.

A special session to discuss the matter is being scheduled.

Lawmakers are finding themselves at odds with Gov. Manchin over a compromise proposal to aid the educators, with one proposal allowing them to return to the better funded state retirement program.

A House-Senate conference committee struggled at the tail-end of the session to reconcile dueling proposals that would allow enrollees to transfer into the state-run traditional pension fund.

The compromise would have required at least 75 percent of the 19,100 Teachers Defined Contribution program enrollees to switch to the Teachers Retirement System.

Those teachers have reportedly been paying less into the 401-K retirement, and they might face paying between $861 and $8,900 to receive full pension benefits under the other plan.

Manchin is upset with the $18 million price tag.

Manchin lashed out out at the state's two teacher unions, saying, he is getting "no cooperation" from the West Virginia Education Association and the West Virginia Federation of Teachers on the teacher shortage and anti-bullying issues.

Manchin had proposed $20 million this session to allow local school boards to use as bonus money to hire teachers in critical shortage areas, but he said the bill was changed and then died in the Senate Finance Committee.

"You tell me you have a shortage and then we try and show you how to take care of a shortage by giving bonuses and the representatives of the teachers' unions are opposed to that," said Manchin.

Manchin says he sees no leadership from the teacher groups regarding bullying.

"You don't see that to be on the front-burner for any of them. When is it going to be about the children?" he asked.

"Let's look at some different things we can change, maybe get more people through non-traditional ways into the math and sciences, but I've got no one coming forward to help on that," Manchin said.

"But when it comes time to talking about money, money, money, I got no problem with people helping me there," he concluded.


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