Retired teachers need permanent cost-of-living changes, survey reveals

posted on September 24 - 08:40 AM
By Joe -

A survey conducted by the Texas American Federation of Teachers (Texas AFT) and the Texas Pension Coalition (TPC) reveals that while retired school employees across the state are thankful for their recent supplemental payment, they ultimately require more permanent changes to their pension in order to ensure financial well-being.


The survey results were discussed at a press conference held by Texas AFT this Friday, as the  Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) held its September board meeting, and a week after the system deposited a one-time bonus check into pensioners’ accounts. This “13th check,” capped at $2,000, comes after 15 years without a cost of living adjustment for TRS pension recipients.

Among the clearest findings in the survey: most retired school employees are using their 13th check to cover basic needs or recover from accumulated debt. Almost three in ten respondents are putting some or all of their bonus check toward paying down credit card debt, while about one quarter are using the funds toward either outstanding medical debt or home repairs. Over 15% of participants indicated they would use the supplemental payment to pay for either prescriptions or doctor visits.  

“We asked over 1,000 retired teachers a simple question: how are you going to use your 13th check?” said Texas Pension Coalition coordinator Keegan Shepherd. “The overwhelming majority of responses show that retirees are using this money for basic needs they’ve had to put off for quite some time, or for paying off debt that has accrued taking care of these essential expenses.”

Retired teachers attending the press conference echoed the survey results. “Nobody I know is spending this money on jewelry or a luxurious vacation,” said Cheryl Anderson, chair of the Texas AFT Retirees Plus group, which spearheaded the campaign for pension increases. “My former colleagues are using the bonus check to finally go the dentist, take the car into the mechanic, or fix their air conditioning—things that should have been taken care of months ago.”  

Texas AFT leaders stress that these survey results show that the 13th check has to be seen as the first step toward lasting changes to TRS pensions. While legislative modifications to TRS earlier in the year allowed the pension system to remain financially sound, they did not enable a permanent bump to pension payments—something the union is pushing for when the Legislature meets again in 2021.