WEATHERFORD (CBSNewsTexas.com) - Many retired teachers in Texas are struggling to make ends meet on fixed pensions with historic levels of inflation, so they're fighting for a cost-of-living increase this legislative session.
"Just about given up beef," said Helen Spivy, who spent about 45 years in public education. "It costs so much now to make a meatloaf."
Spivy started her career teaching second and third grade in Weatherford. She loved coming up with special ways to make learning fun.
"No telling how much I spent every month," she said. "Because it's just fun to do projects and help kids. I paid lunch money for kids that needed it."
It's money she doesn't regret spending but thinks about now as she struggles to pay the bills. Spivy's only source of income is a monthly check from the state's Teacher Retirement System.
"It's just a problem every month to make sure I stay within that zone," Spivy said.
When her husband of 57 years died two years ago, his Social Security benefits stopped coming.
"So it's really been hard," she said. "I don't understand it… If I'd been a secretary or worked at Walmart or whatever, I could have gotten his Social Security. To me, it doesn't seem fair that I can't get it."
The vast majority of retired school workers are unable to get Social Security benefits due to federal rules put in place decades ago. With no cost-of-living adjustments built into the pension system, inflation hits especially hard.
"There are 471,000 retired school employees in Texas," said Tim Lee, the executive director of the Texas Retired Teacher Association. "This is not a unique story to just an isolated amount of folks."
The Texas Retired Teacher Association is pushing state lawmakers to make a permanent adjustment to their monthly checks.
"We have some retired teachers in Texas that have never had a raise, and they've been retired for 20 years," Lee said. "These folks really need a bump in their benefits."
They're hopeful it will happen this session since the legislature has access to a record-breaking budget surplus.
"If we have surplus, if we have a rainy day fund, when do we need it more than now?" Spivy asked. "I mean, we need it."
Retired educators from across the metroplex plan to go to the State Capitol on April 12 to lobby for the cost-of-living adjustment.
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