Quorum break doesn’t excuse longstanding legislative inaction on educator pensions

CONTACT: Rob D’Amico, , rdamico@k5ka.net

Texas AFT President Zeph Capo commented today on the importance of preserving and enhancing voter rights and the debate over retired educators’ pensions:

Texas AFT has stood up for retired educators session after session, demanding supplemental TRS payments and cost-of-living adjustments. These pleas often go unheard; in this year’s regular session, we saw “13th check” and COLA bills stall in the Calendars Committee in the House and fail to reach the Senate floor. Texas had the money then to pay for these benefits, but the governor and legislative leadership didn’t act. 

What’s changed in this special session? 

Gov. Greg Abbott and his supporters are blaming Texas House Democrats for killing 13th check bills for retirees because they broke quorum and have traveled to Washington D.C., to kill voter suppression legislation and lobby Congress for help. But public school educators in Texas intrinsically understand the value of voting rights in a democracy. Educators teach about the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the terrible legacy of Jim Crow, and the effects of slavery on generations of African-Americans. The right to vote is seminal to our democratic society, of which our public education system is a keystone. 

Texas state Rep. Senfronia Thompson said this week: “When I looked at the African American Museum, I thought about the struggle of my people, fought in this country to get the right to vote. That right is sacred to my constituents that I represent back in Houston.”

Voting rights are at the heart of our democracy — though we share deeply in the disappointment of hard-working retirees who potentially lose this chance at a 13th check. Thousands of AFT members wrote letters to their Senators demanding a 13th check. Retired educators should not be used as pawns in divisive political debates and partisan fights. The governor and the Legislature had five months (not to mention all the preceding years) to support retired teachers and did nothing, but now they want to use political opportunity to cast blame elsewhere. 

Today, as we watch educators fight classroom censorship, the shrill calls echoing in the Capitol for respect for teachers ring hollow. Texas AFT will continue to advocate strongly for public education and the freedoms inherent to our democracy, and we look forward to 13th check and COLA bills moving forward with bipartisan support in future regular or special sessions.

Texas American Federation of Teachers represents some 66,000 teachers, paraprofessionals, support personnel, and higher-education employees across the state. Texas AFT is affiliated with the 1.7-million-member American Federation of Teachers and AFL-CIO.