13th Check For Retired Teachers Just A ‘Band-Aid’ Without Bigger Changes, Says Union President

A one-time check – up to $2,400 – is a welcome gesture for retired teachers whose annuities have stagnated. But is it ultimately just a drop in the bucket?

By Jill Ament and Wells DunbarAugust 31, 2021 2:18 pm, ,

Both the Texas House and Senate have unanimously approved a measure giving retired Texas public school teachers and staff a one-time check of up to $2,400. This “13th paycheck” is a welcome gesture for retired teachers whose annuities have stagnated – but can it make a long-term difference for retirees’ pocketbooks?

Zeph Capo, president of the Texas American Federation of Teachers, says while a 13th check “is most certainly helpful in mitigating some of the harm that’s been done” to retirees in the form of stagnant annuities, “it’s certainly not enough.” Instead, the teachers’ union would prefer lawmakers look at a “permanent cost of living adjustment that ensures that the system will be able to keep up” with inflation.

Capo argues that an adjustment is fair for former teachers – “degreed professionals … paid far below what others in comparable industries” are paid. But he also points out participants in the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, or TRS, are not only teachers. For many, TRS may offer the only form of retirement income.

“We have a tremendous number of bus drivers, cafeteria workers and others that do not collect Social Security. … They’re completely dependent on the retirement check they receive from the state retirement system.”

Absent any broader action, Capo calls the 13th check a “Band-Aid.”

“It’s an appreciated one; it’s certainly better than nothing, absolutely. But it is definitely a Band-Aid. It’s not fixing the structural problem we have with the system,” he said.

Disclosure: As employees of the University of Texas at Austin, the staff on Texas Standard are members of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas.