HARRISBURG - Twenty-one investment staffers at Pennsylvania's public-school pension fund received more than $854,000 in bonuses for the 2007-08 fiscal year, even though the fund's investments experienced a $1.8 billion net loss, a newspaper reported yesterday.

The Public School Employees' Retirement System board plans to end the practice at the end of the month, however, citing market conditions and other factors.

"There was some concern given the unprecedented markets at this point," PSERS executive director Jeffrey Clay told the Patriot-News of Harrisburg. "Across the country, there are issues raised with respect to incentive compensation for investment professionals in this market."

Bonuses for the fiscal year ended June 30 ranged from $9,720 to $106,223. The fund's investment staff receive base salaries between $63,179 and $251,542.

In November, Gov. Rendell advised against awarding the bonuses, calling it "inappropriate and indefensible." But the system's lawyers concluded that it was contractually obligated to award the bonuses.

Investors at Pennsylvania's other state pension fund, the State Employees' Retirement System, will not likely receive bonuses this year, given the fund's losses for the 2008 calendar year, spokesman Robert Gentzel said. The fund's investments fell 14.4 percent from January through September. *