I retired in 2013 and have never had a COLA. I’m not talking about the soft drink. In the eight years I have been retired, I have never received a Cost-Of-Living Adjustment (COLA) to my pension to help offset the cost of inflation.
Before I go further, for those who don’t know, the retirement system for public-education employees is called TRS or the Teacher Retirement System of Texas. ALERT! This acronym is a misnomer because TRS isn’t only for retired teachers in our state. Rather, TRS is the retirement system for our bus drivers, secretaries, cafeteria staff, librarians, counselors, maintenance staff, school nurses and social workers, classroom aides, administrators, and all other public-education employees.
In case you haven’t seen this, you may want to know how much current TRS retirees earn each month in the pension system we paid into throughout our careers:
Now let’s return to the COLA. As I mentioned earlier, I have not received a single COLA in the eight years I have been retired. But imagine this! The Texas Legislature has not provided a COLA to any public-education retirees who have retired since September 1, 2004.
That is not a typo. Since 2004. That’s 17 years without a COLA. Let’s compare that to Social Security.
I must save this story for another day, but what I will share with you today is that the TRS pension is the sole retirement income for countless public-education retirees.
FINALLY, it looked like the 87th Texas Legislature was going to provide us with at least a “sip” after the 17-year COLA drought. But the Texas Retired Teachers’ Association’s reports that the Senate Finance Committee failed to allow public hearings on any of the COLA-related bills filed, and the House Calendars Committee allowed two critical bills—HB 3214 and HB 3507 to die a slow death. HB 3214 would have provided a six-percent COLA—capped at $100 per month--while HB 3507 would have given TRS members a one-time payment (also known as a 13th check), with a $2400 cap.
There should not have been any excuses. As a result of action taken during the 2019 Legislative Session, TRS of Texas is now actuarially sound, and providing us with a COLA would not change that. This is the criteria for providing TRS members with a COLA.
THE TIME IS NOW! RISE UP, PUBLIC-ED EMPLOYEES AND RETIREES!
It is important for current public-ed employees to join us in this fight because we are fighting for your future, too.
According to the TRS website, there are currently 1.6 million members. SPEAK NOW OR LIVE COLA-LESS FOR AT LEAST TWO MORE YEARS! That’s when the Texas Legislature reconvenes. 2023.
We allowed them to strip us of our affordable health insurance in 2017, which was still FAR inferior to THEIRS.
Are we going to allow them to do this, too, or are we going to CALL/TWEET GOVERNOR ABBOTT? Only he can call a Special Session. Let us make it clear, we want him to do so and to include a COLA for TRS members on the Session’s agenda.
Start tweeting him @GregAbbott_TX NOW and start calling his office (512-463-2000) Monday! Let him know 17 years without a COLA is SHAMEFUL!
Remind Gov. Abbott that TRS retirees devoted our lives to the children of this state, and WE’RE THIRSTY! We NEED a COLA!
Chris Ardis retired in May of 2013 following a 29-year teaching career. She now works as a freelance writer and editor and is committed to education, educators, and students. Chris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Photo by Linda Blackwell, McAllen.)