Texas AFT Defends Pension Guarantee for Current and Future Retirees

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Protect Our Pensions!  Proposals to mess with the Teacher Retirement System's guarantee of a definite pension benefit for school retirees took a well-deserved drubbing in a hearing before the House Pensions Committee in Austin today. Much of the testimony on possible TRS benefit changes was still to be heard when the committee hearing resumes Thursday.

Especially effective was today's testimony from a Texas AFT member in Houston ISD. Sharon Goldstein, a 16-year elementary teacher and Houston Federation of Teachers member, said educators like her are “fighting mad” that there's an unjustified attempt under way to change school employees' pensions from a defined benefit to a defined contribution.  She cited evidence, confirmed in testimony by the TRS executive director today, that defined contributions would yield substantially lower benefits yet would be much more costly both to school employees themselves and to the state. Goldstein noted the crucial importance of good retirement benefits in attracting and retaining teachers, helping to make up for relatively low pay levels. She also stressed the importance of public education, including TRS pensions as a crucial component, in fueling economic gains for the whole state. (You can view Goldstein's testimony here.) http://afl.salsalabs.com/dia/t…

Other witnesses backed up Goldstein, opposing adverse changes in the structure of TRS retirement benefits and any cuts in those benefits. Texas AFT President Linda Bridges reinforced the message with a press statement, in which she said: “Since 95 percent of public school employees in Texas aren't covered by Social Security, the goal for our Texas Teacher Retirement System fund should be simple: provide a secure, reliable pension supported by both employees and the state that makes a career in public education more attractive to high-quality educators. Unfortunately, when you've got a pool of money as large as the TRS pension fund, it becomes a target for all kinds of greed-influenced ideas that threaten the ability to provide for a modest but honorable retirement for our public servants.” Texas AFT will follow up with further testimony before the House Pensions Committee on Thursday. Meanwhile, state lawmakers have received thousands of “Protect our Pensions” e-mail letters from Texas AFT members. http://afl.salsalabs.com/dia/t…

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