Texas lawmakers have taken a significant step towards providing retired teachers with a cost-of-living increase, following years of stagnant payments. The Texas House has given tentative approval to Senate Bill 10, proposed by state Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, which will potentially provide a small increase in monthly retirement checks to thousands of retired teachers. For some, this would be their first cost-of-living adjustment in almost two decades.
The amended version of Senate Bill 10 seeks to provide a 6% increase in monthly checks to retirees who left before 2004, as well as a 4% boost to those who retired between 2004 and 2014, and a 2% increase for those who retired between 2015 and 2021. In addition to this, the bill imagines a $5,000 one-time payment to retirees aged 70 and over. It also stipulates that annual cost-of-living increases should not exceed 2%, dependent on whether the Teacher Retirement System met or exceeded its anticipated investment gains. Moreover, the legislation raises the proportion of active teachers’ paychecks that feed into the pensions fund from 8% to 9%, with the state contributing an equal amount.
However, to fund the cost-of-living increases, Texas voters must first approve a constitutional amendment that permits the state to transfer $1.9 billion from general funds to the Teacher Retirement System. The referendum on this issue is planned for 7 November later this year.
While the House appears to have moved forward with adjustments for retired teachers, the Senate version of the bill is planning a $7,500 one-time payment to retirees aged 75 and up. Additionally, the Senate bill expects a 4% boost in checks for teachers who’ve been retired for over ten years, as well as a 2% increase for those who ceased employment between late 2013 and prior to the end of 2021.
State Rep. John Bryant, D-Dallas, suggested adjusting the bill to provide increased cost-of-living payments to better suit retired teachers’ requirements. This proposal was not approved, and with regards to his amendment’s failure, Bryant stated that the “moral obligation” was with Texas lawmakers to provide better support for retired educators.
In the years leading up to the proposal for increased payments, teachers who retired post-August 2004 have not seen a salary increase, receiving an approximate payment of $1,800 per month. Lawmakers have allocated one-time payments, known as the “13th check,” in the past two legislative sessions.
According to a report by the Texas American Federation of Teachers, the average monthly payment for Texas’s retired teachers is estimated to be around $2,174. For retirees qualifying for the 6% increase, their monthly income will potentially rise to around $2,300.
Monty Exter, a lobbyist from the Association of Texas Professional Educators, described the legislation as a significant step for retirees. However, Nicole Hill, the Texas American Federation of Teachers’ communications director, suggests that while the bill’s progress is welcome, it is “essentially crumbs” and does not go far enough.
Furthermore, the Association of Texas Professional Educators has financially supported The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit and nonpartisan news organization that is partly funded by donations from members, foundations, and corporate sponsors. These financial supporters do not influence the Tribune’s journalism.