When it comes to teachers’ retirement benefits, Texas ranks second to last when compared to all 50 states plus Washington D.C., according to a new study from Equable, a bipartisan organization that monitors pension programs across the country. The states were ranked based on the value their retirement systems presented to new teachers based on average monthly annuity at retirement. The study also took into account each plan’s sustainability and ability to fulfill promises to members.
The study broke down the scoring based on different durations of service and found that Texas scores toward the bottom in all three categories: teachers who served for less than 10 years, teachers who served between 10 and 20 years, and teachers who served longer than 20 years. Texas performed especially poorly for medium-term teachers (with 10-20 years of service), but consistent low rankings in all three categories contributed to the state’s low overall score.
State Rep. Terry Canales (D-Edinburg), chairman of the Texas House Committee on Transportation, responded to the results of this study in an op-ed published in the Dallas Morning News last week. According to a revised revenue estimate from the comptroller last month, Texas will have an extra $27 billion in its budget, and Chairman Canales argues this surplus should be used to improve teacher benefits by offering TRS retirees a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to their monthly annuity. Teachers who have retired since 2004 have never received a COLA.
Additionally, Canales points out that Texas is one of only 18 states that do not require teachers to be enrolled in Social Security, meaning that for many Texas educators, their TRS annuity is their sole source of income at retirement. Even for the few Texas teachers who are enrolled in Social Security, their benefits are reduced because of the Windfall Elimination Provision.
Canales ended his Op-Ed with a crucial question: “We must ask ourselves, if we don’t support our retired teachers, what does that say about our support for students and the overall Texas education system?”