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Teachers picket DeLay

Some 300 teachers protested outside Tom DeLay’s office in Sugar Land yesterday after he refused to bring a bill that would benefit them to a floor vote.

About 300 public school employees from Houston, Fort Bend, Brazosport and other school districts rallied at DeLay’s Stafford office, blaming the House majority leader for not bringing to a floor vote House Resolution Bill 594, the Social Security Fairness Act.

The Act, which has enough votes to pass in the House, would allow teachers and other government employees who have had other jobs to receive full Social Security benefits. DeLay has said the bill could bankrupt Social Security.

Teachers such as Randy Elms, who carried signs like “DeLay denies Teachers,” say the current policy is unfair to Texas educators.

“If I would die today, he would get no Social Security benefits,” said the 50-year-old middle school teacher, nodding toward his 10-year-old son, Ryan. Both were bundled in their coats as they stood outside DeLay’s office in the cold weather.

Teachers who pay into the Teacher Retirement System receive that pension fund upon retirement but do not receive full Social Security benefits even if they paid into it and are vested, Texas Federation of Teachers secretary-treasurer John O’Sullivan said at the rally. Spouses and children of teachers do not receive full Social Security benefits either, he said.

HR 594 would allow teachers and their families to receive full Social Security benefits upon retirement or disability in addition to the teacher pension.

The bill has 277 co-sponsors in the U.S. House, including 23 from Texas, with a majority needed to pass. DeLay has the power to prevent a vote, said John Cole, president of the Texas Federation of Teachers. Texas is one of 12 states that considers teachers public servants and requires them to live off their teacher pensions, even if they had other careers before or afterward, he said.

So this bill has more sponsors than votes needed to pass, at least six of whom are Republicans from Texas, but Tom DeLay won’t let it come to the floor. Why not?

DeLay’s office released a statement that said HR 594 would add more than $50 billion over the next 10 years to the Social Security program. He was not at the rally.

Yes, between the Medicare and (thankfully now dead) energy bills, we know what a stalwart for fiscal responsibility DeLay is.

To be honest, I have no idea if this bill is a good idea or not. Fifty billion over ten years isn’t going to break the federal budget, but no matter how dishonest DeLay is on the subject, adding to the current record deficits really should give us pause. And just because a bill is popular doesn’t mean it’s good policy (see, for example, every anti-flag burning bill that’s ever reared its ugly head).

But still. Two hundred seventy-seven sponsors, and no vote? Maybe if they added in a corporate tax cut, that might do the trick. One must remember one’s priorities, after all.

UPDATE: The following comment from Diogenes gives a good reason why this bill should be passed.

My mother is approaching retirement age, and taught in Texas public schools for almost 20 years. As such, she contributed to the Texas Teacher Retirement System (TRS). But she came to teaching later in life; she worked a number of jobs before teaching, during which she contributed to Social Security for long enough to be eligible for benefits (normally) when she retires.

The only problem is this: unlike most people, who get both Social Security and pension or other retirement benefits, teachers aren’t allowed to collect Social Security.

The unspoken assumption of the system is that teachers do nothing but teach for their entire career, and so couldn’t possibly contribute enough to Social Security to be eligible for benefits. That’s just false. There’s also consequences for spousal and disability benefits. In effect, the system is set up as an unfair tax on teachers and their families.

The odd thing is that it can depend on what job one retires from. There are some teaching jobs in the state that contribute to both TRS and SS. If you retire from one of those jobs, you’re entitled to receive both benefits.

Teachers in the know search out these jobs when approaching retirement. Some of them will even let you work there for a day or two and then retire, just so that you can get the benefits to which you should be entitled. Fortunately, my mother has found one of those jobs. But many aren’t so lucky.

So now you (and I) know. Typical of DeLay to oppose something that benefits working people.

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5 Comments

  1. Charles M says:

    This is bizarre. My wife teaches (AISD) and this story is totally different from the one we have been hearing.

    There is a bill before the Senate – held by Kay Bailey, bless her heart – which would do exactly what the picketers are picketing against which is offset Social Security against TRS pensions.

    We’re getting ready to drop 30 large to buy enough years from her time in Michigan to allow her to retire this year.

    DeLay is scum.

  2. Linkmeister says:

    Somebody ought to ask Delay’s office to prove its numbers; actuarial accounting can be fudged almost anyway the fudger desires.

  3. Diogenes says:

    I’ll give you an example of who a bill like this would help: my mother.

    My mother is approaching retirement age, and taught in Texas public schools for almost 20 years. As such, she contributed to the Texas Teacher Retirement System (TRS). But she came to teaching later in life; she worked a number of jobs before teaching, during which she contributed to Social Security for long enough to be eligible for benefits (normally) when she retires.

    The only problem is this: unlike most people, who get both Social Security and pension or other retirement benefits, teachers aren’t allowed to collect Social Security.

    The unspoken assumption of the system is that teachers do nothing but teach for their entire career, and so couldn’t possibly contribute enough to Social Security to be eligible for benefits. That’s just false. There’s also consequences for spousal and disability benefits. In effect, the system is set up as an unfair tax on teachers and their families.

    The odd thing is that it can depend on what job one retires from. There are some teaching jobs in the state that contribute to both TRS and SS. If you retire from one of those jobs, you’re entitled to receive both benefits.

    Teachers in the know search out these jobs when approaching retirement. Some of them will even let you work there for a day or two and then retire, just so that you can get the benefits to which you should be entitled. Fortunately, my mother has found one of those jobs. But many aren’t so lucky.

    So, Tom DeLay has made his priorities clear: tax teachers to fatten drug industry profits.

  4. kevin whited says:

    The energy bill will be back after the break, so I wouldn’t celebrate too soon.

    Good to see the focus on DeLay continuing apace, though. The more interesting question is — is the GOP majority now secure enough that we (the admittedly stupid party) can afford to have a Speaker DeLay?

    Just thought I’d ask some folks who might have an interesting perspective on the question.

  5. Sheila says:

    My kids live in another state where when they retire they would get both a teacher’s pension and Social Security. Both worked in private sector also before pursuing teaching degrees.

    They want to move to Texas to be close to us (aging parents) but I heard rumors that DeLay is not nice to teachers. I was shocked. And, I voted for him. Shame on me!~! If this is the case, he needs his bottom spanked and spanked good!~!~!

    I also heard that one of the highschools in Ft. Bend lost 13 teachers this past year due to the shananigans of DeLays.

    I am sick with this news. I want our children home to be near us as my hubby and I both are elderly and sick but I cannot afford to let my children lose benefits they have contriubuted to and so rightfully deserve.

    So they lose and we lose and DeLay is happy. Yes, someone called him a scum. I guess that word is pretty fitting.

    I am wondering if there is a school district in Texas that is not under DeLays’s rules and does treat the teachers with respect and dignity.

    Thank You. Shelia…Sugar Land