Saturday, November 04, 2023

Trina Kay Prufer: Why STRS must acknowledge the truth about the COLA

From Trina Kay Prufer

November 4, 2023

Why STRS must acknowledge the truth about the cola
“Actual benefits will be paid in accordance with STRS LAW in effect AT THE TIME of retirement”.
This sentence appears in over a decade of STRS documents including yearly account statements, plan booklets and projections of monthly annuity payments. The statement was not written to misinform, fool or lie to us. It was MEANT to give teachers the assurance that at the time of retirement, the benefit was fixed, safe and backed by the LAW.
It was the CERTAINTY of the law, which kept many of us in the same district for most of our careers. The defined-benefit was not advantageous unless teachers stayed for full retirement, which included inflation protection for peace of mind. Additionally, should a teacher consider working in another district, there was often the disincentive of limiting the years transferable to the new pay scale.
Teachers were assured of inflation protection because it was good for the State and good for schools. Being freed from worry about retirement meant energies could be focused on helping individual students and enriching the school environment. How many of us spent hundreds of hours working on plays, grants and a myriad of unpaid extras designed to enrich students’ learning?
In my time, STRS held field meetings every year in different areas around the state. These yearly meetings had the effect of reinforcing the end goal of staying in education for the benefits full retirement offered. The cola was the incentive that promised a sustainable decent standard of living.
Right now, we may not be able to change much, but we can demand that STRS acknowledge the truth. It doesn’t cost STRS any money to do so, but gives us back some DIGNITY and RESPECT. We were not negligent, naive or in any way responsible for the predicament we find ourselves in. The LAW was to have protected us. STRS told us so… many times over. STRS may have re-written the law, but they can’t rewrite the truth.

Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
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