During the most recent state legislative session, education got several big wins for working and retired teachers.
According to Mary Snell with the Delta-Lamar Retired Teachers Association, the 84th Legislature signed Senate Bill 500 and SB 12, both bringing relief and a way forward for the state’s Teacher Retirement System.
“We are extremely appreciative to the legislature,” Snell said. “It doesn’t solve our problem, but it makes it possible.”
SB 500 drops the amortization period for the retirement fund from 99 years to under 31, according to Butch Milford, who is the legislative chairman for the local retired teachers.
“They made our fund actuarially sound,” he said, “making it go from 99 years to under 31 years, retired folks can now get a raise.”
“What we really need is a (cost of living
adjustment),” Snell said, adding for those who just retired it wasn’t as bad, but for teachers who took their retirement years ago, “the cost of living has gone up. We don’t pay into Social Security unless we have another job. Social Security has had some COLAs through the years.”
According to TRS.gov, the retirement fund has not granted a cost of living increase since 2013, which was a scant 3%, and the one before that was a 10% increase in 1999. According to SSA.gov, the Social Security Administration’s website, the only years the program has not received at least a small cost of living raise since 1975 were 2010, 2011 and 2016.
SB 12, Snell said, allows all retired education personnel to receive a 13th check this year, the lesser amount of either their monthly check or up to $2,000. The bill also increases contributions from the state to the fund, from school districts and now even includes contributions from school districts that choose to pay into social security instead of the retirement fund. Ninety-five percent of school districts pay into the state fund, according to TRS.gov.
This year, Milford said, officials deserve a lot of praise.
“Nobody gets everything when you want it,” he said. “This was our year. The legislature was kind to us this time, and we definitely need to give them an ‘attaboy.’
“It’s so easy to say, ‘I love teachers,’ and nothing ever happens, and that’s kind of how it’s been for a long time.”
He said he talked to Sen. Bryan Hughes at Thursday’s celebration in Deport, adding the senator is warming up to education.
“He’s starting to become a friend to education,” Milford said.
Hughes was one of the sponsors for SB 12. Milford added that Rep. VanDeaver, Rep. Reggie Smith and Sen. Bob Hall also deserved praise for their support of the education bills.