AUSTIN — The Texas House on Monday passed a bill that would give retired teachers the raise they say they desperately need.

Senate Bill 10 would provide retirement pension benefits to nearly 476,000 retirees. It is the first Senate priority bill to make it to the House floor that is not directly budget-related.

The legislation “is going to make a historic contribution and change to our TRS (Texas Retirement System) pension,” said state Rep. Greg Bonnen, R-Friendswood. “This will be a huge benefit to all of our public school retirees.”

Retired Texas teachers have not received a cost-of-living adjustment since 2013. That adjustment, however, only applied to those who retired before August 2004.

Retired teacher advocacy groups have been calling this spring on lawmakers to use a portion of the state’s $33 billion surplus to address this issue.

Advocates say the average monthly Teacher Retirement System check is about $2,100. That money, should the individual not have other income or savings, would have to cover everyday costs such as rent, groceries, gas, medical bills, internet services and other daily expenses.

In addition, the price of goods has risen about 64% since 2004, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

SB 10 looks to address that by delivering a cost-of-living increase to all eligible retired educators and a supplemental check of $7,500 for the approximately 186,000 retired educators aged 75 and older.

Educators who retired before Jan. 1, 2022, and less than 10 years ago would receive a 2% adjustment. Educators who retired 10 years ago or more would receive a 4% adjustment.

SB 10 would not require any additional contributions from current educators or school districts because the state would fund the whole program using money from its budget surplus, per the bill.

The Texas American Federation of Teachers estimates the raise would amount to an additional $80 per month. 

“Those are crumbs. They’re not enough,” the group said in a statement.

Several House members repeatedly put up amendments that would increase the cost-of-living adjustments and offer them to more retirees, but most of those did not pass.

“Until we get this right on teacher retirement, we’re going to have a hard time drawing people into this great profession,” said state Rep. John Bryant, D-Dallas. “We hear so much about the ‘great state of Texas.’ A state is only as great as its willingness to meet its moral responsibility to those who made us great.”

The House and the Senate have passed different versions of SB 10, which will now have to be negotiated and combined in a conference committee.

“It is our hope and our next advocacy push that the legislators hammering out the details — as well as those lawmakers negotiating the entire state budget — will put more money toward a true” cost-of-living adjustment, Texas AFT said.

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