By David Milroy
As a recently retired part-time instructor who got hit hard by the WEP, I joined the California Retired Teachers Association (CalRTA) because they are leading the charge to eliminate this horrid SSA rule. CalRTA was founded in 1929 and is one of the nation’s largest organizations for retired educators. Laure E. Settle, CalRTA’s founder and president until 1945, drove California’s dusty highways to help organize teachers to a common cause. Laure Settle set the tone for the organization – a spirit that was contagious then and endures today. CalRTA and its leaders have had profound effects on retired people nationwide. Ethel Percy Andrus, founder of AARP and also a resident of my own home-town of Ojai, got her start as a leader in CalRTA in the 1940s. She went on to create the National Retired Teachers Association and AARP.
CalRTA is the only statewide organization working to protect and enhance the retirement benefits for all CalSTRS retirees. The CalRTA membership includes more than 35,000 retired educators, including teachers and administrators statewide divided into 86 Divisions in 12 Areas The core mission of CalRTA is to protect and enhance the pensions of CalSTRS members and protect public education, but other goals include:
- Full purchasing power for all retired educators.
- An equitable pension system that treats all retirees equally.
- Repeal of the Social Security penalties, the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO), which penalize careers in public education.
- A health care system that is accessible, affordable and of high quality for all Californians.
I just returned from the annual CalRTA Advocacy Day 2022 in Sacramento where I was delighted to find myself working with the CalRTA Legislative Advocate and former FACCC and CalSTRS staff, Jennifer Baker, who has been a long-time advocate for part-time faculty. The various area groups spoke to legislators and their staff about the two STRS-related bills this year: AB-1667 (Cooper) and SB-868 (Cortese).
SB 868 (Cortese): SBMA • CalRTA is a proud sponsor of SB 868 (Cortese), which would protect the purchasing power of California’s oldest retired teachers while maintaining the fiscal integrity of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS). This important measure will provide a one-time permanent increase for pre-1999 retirees using excess funds in the Supplemental Benefit Maintenance Account (SBMA). The SBMA provides purchasing power to retired teachers whose retirement salary has eroded to less than 85% of its original value. Currently, the SBMA has an excess of $11.2 billion in projected resources needed to maintain 85% purchasing power through the year 2089. CalSTRS actuaries have indicated that, despite current fluctuations in interest rates, this excess will continue to provide funding for not only existing benefits but also the proposed changes in SB 868. The overwhelming number of retirees who would be helped by this measure are female retirees (as high as 80%), and all educators who retired prior to 1999, who have faced numerous financial hurdles over the decades, including inflation erosion. Just this year alone, Medicare costs increased 14.9 percent, which does not include out of pocket costs such as hearing, dental, vision, and long-term care. STRS retirees need this support to weather the increased economic turmoil they have faced, particularly in regard to inflation. SB 868 would immediately impact over 85,800 retirees across the state who need this support to ensure they can maintain their retirement security in these economically uncertain times.
AB 1667 (Cooper): CalSTRS Audit Process. CalRTA is a proud sponsor of AB 1667 (Cooper), which would protect retirees by ensuring the retiree would not be held fiscally liable for mistakes over which they had no control. It would also create a more transparent and accountable audit process within CalSTRS to ensure that districts receive timely and accurate information from CalSTRS, to reduce the likelihood of future reporting mistakes. Retirees rely on CalSTRS for accurate information and guidance and count on the excellent customer service of CalSTRS staff for this information. As a CalSTRS core value, Customer Service is defined as striving to meet or exceed the expectations of members. CalRTA has talked with countless retirees who have been negatively impacted by findings stemming from a CalSTRS audit, which created confusion and upended their fiscal future. These retirees had done everything CalSTRS told them to do. They talked with a CalSTRS counselor. They used the CalSTRS calculator. They attended CalSTRS workshops. They planned and made their retirement plans based upon the information they received from CalSTRS. Their trust was shaken when they received notification not only would their retirement salaries be decreased, but that they would also be forced to pay back funds to CalSTRS, through no fault of their own, and with no recourse.
For more information, please visit www.calrta.org
David Milroy was an adjunct French instructor from 1988 to 2019 at Mesa College, Grossmont College, Southwestern College, MiraCosta College, and SDSU. He is a founding member and current chair of the San Diego Adjunct Faculty Association (SDAFA). David served as Chair of CPFA from 2004 to 2009 and then as Dir. of Administration from 2010 to 2021. David has been serving on the COCAL International Advisory Committee since 2008.