The unwritten history

The Minneapolis Teachers Retirement Fund Association (MTRFA) has a long, complicated and financially troubled history, and it's no easy task to assess how different state and local decisions contributed to the near-billion-dollar problem.

A story from Sen. Larry Pogemiller (DFL-Minneapolis) illustrates the point.

Pension legislation involves negotiating and tradeoffs; some deals are not even written down, Pogemiller said. Rather, they are part of the legislative oral tradition.

Pogemiller related one such story from Minneapolis' first desegregation efforts. As he heard it, Minneapolis tried and failed to get more state aid to deal with its classroom needs and teacher pension problems.

Other legislators weren't willing to give all the aid, Pogemiller said. They told city leaders they had to decide how to divide the aid appropriated, "but we ain't giving you any more money.'"

Pogemiller believes that local leaders picked what they thought was in the best interest of kids at the time: the aid meant for pensions got diverted to "other things."

"I am guessing. That is what I am told as part of the folklore here. That is the type of thing you probably can't figure out except from the people in the room," he said.