New law takes effect July 1

IN A VICTORY FOR part-time community college faculty enrolled in the CalSTRS retirement program, Gov. Brown signed into law CFT-sponsored SB 114 to correct the misreporting of retirement service credit.

According to CFT Part-Time Faculty Committee Chair Phyllis Eckler, widespread misreporting by districts has resulted in many part-time faculty receiving less CalSTRS retirement credit than they should have. According to Eckler and others, working on a case-by-case basis with CalSTRS benefits counselors to correct reporting errors is an extremely time-consuming and often frustrating process. This new law should help districts understand exactly how to compute and to report service credit for part-time instructors so as to avoid this labor-intensive process of excavating past reporting and correcting errors.

SB 114, carried by Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, states that by July 1, 2013, community college districts must submit “a copy of the collective bargaining agreements or employment agreements … to CalSTRS in accordance with specified criteria.” Most importantly, it also “requires those agreements to specify the number of hours of creditable service that equal ‘full-time’ for each class of employee.”

Cliff Liehe, part-time instructor and author of the Retirement Primer for California Community College Part-Time Faculty, hopes the new law will “encourage more districts to report correctly, bringing the matter more fully to districts’ attention.” He says the requirement that all districts furnish CalSTRS with their collective bargaining or employment agreements “will help CalSTRS determine whether districts are using correct calculations.”

Both Eckler and Liehe applaud Gov. Brown for signing the bill but are particularly appreciative that CFT and Senator Yee committed fully to the process of arriving at successful legislation. “We part-timers are a majority of the instructors within the community colleges,” Eckler says, “but we aren’t a majority of CFT membership. Yet CFT leaders and lobbyist Judith Michaels did everything possible to make this idea to help part-timers become law.”

Liehe, too, commends CFT for its willingness to put necessary resources into legislative campaigns like this one that will improve the lives of part-time faculty throughout the state.

In addition to the more obvious benefits of accurate reporting, Eckler sees another benefit to this new law. She believes it will provide a clearer picture of retirement options for part-time faculty.

“Given the changes on the horizon for CalSTRS and for other retirement options,” Eckler says, “part-time faculty need all the accurate information they can get in order to make wise decisions for themselves.”