AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Joe Ramirez gave and received a lot of love across 28 years in Austin Independent School District.
As a high school teacher of the year, two-time middle school teacher of the year and a beloved mentor for students decades after they graduate, Ramirez said he would still be in the classroom if a bad fall didn’t force him to retire at just 48.
That was 11 years ago, and the pension check of about $2,000 a month hasn’t increased a penny, he said.
“People are basically living from month-to-month. And they need to have a little bit more security to make sure that their futures in their golden years are better off,” Ramirez said.
This month, retired teachers hope to get the first cost-of-living adjustment in nearly 20 years. Proposition 9 would give as much as a 6% increase to the nearly half a million annuitants in the Teacher Retirement System of Texas — a needed cushion as retirees face rising prices and the need to pick up a second career.
“You don’t go into it for the money, obviously, but you need to be able to live once you have retired from it,” said Heidi Langan, who just retired after 25 years teaching music to elementary school students in Austin ISD. “Without an adjustment to that income and not having had one for 20 years, it just makes it almost impossible to live — certainly in a place like Austin where cost of living is so high.”
More than a quarter of the system’s beneficiaries receive less than a thousand dollars a month. The constitutional change would benefit not just teachers, but the often lower-paid bus drivers, custodians, and cafeteria staff.
“Having a very, very modest pension means that these folks really can’t afford to wait too much longer,” Executive Director of the Texas Retired Teachers Association Tim Lee said.
Lee stressed to voters that the pension bump will not come with a tax increase, calling it “the most conservative way to give a benefit enhancement.”
“We’re actually going to use the power of our Teacher Retirement System to take a portion of the state surplus and we’re going to invest it so that this enhancement will be paid for fully without any tax burden,” Lee said.
The proposal sailed through the legislature with overwhelming support from both the House and Senate. Because the measure alters the state constitution, it requires approval from voters in this year’s general election. Election Day is Nov. 7.