AUSTIN (Nexstar) Joe Ramirez gave and received a lot of love during 28 years in the Austin Independent School District.
As a high school teacher of the year, a two-time college teacher of the year and a beloved mentor to students decades after graduation, Ramirez said he would still be in the classroom if a bad fall did not force him to retire at only 48 years old. .
That was 11 years ago, and the pension check of about $2,000 a month hasn’t increased a dime, he said.
People basically live from month to month. And they need a little more security to ensure their future in their golden years is brighter, Ramirez said.
This month, retired teachers hope to receive the first cost-of-living adjustment in nearly 20 years. Proposition 9 would give up to a 6 percent raise to nearly half a million Texas Teachers’ Retirement System annuitants, a needed cushion as retirees face rising prices and the need to embark on a second career.
You don’t get into it for the money, obviously, but you have to be able to make a living after you retire from it, said Heidi Langan, who just retired after 25 years of teaching music to students of Austin ISD elementary. Without an adjustment to this income and without having had it for 20 years, it becomes almost impossible to live in a place like Austin where the cost of living is so high.
More than a quarter of the system’s beneficiaries receive less than a thousand dollars per month. The constitutional change would benefit not only teachers, but also bus drivers, custodians and cafeteria staff, who are often less well paid.
Having a very, very modest pension means these people really can’t afford to wait too long, said Tim Lee, executive director of the Texas Retired Teachers Association.
Lee stressed to voters that the pension increase would not be accompanied by a tax increase, calling it the most conservative way to increase benefits.
We’re actually going to use the power of our teachers’ retirement system to take a portion of the state surplus and we’re going to invest it so that this improvement is fully paid for without any tax burden, Lee said.
The proposal sailed through the Legislature with overwhelming support from the House and Senate. Because the measure amends the state constitution, it requires voter approval in this year’s general election. Election day is November 7.
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