Teachers gather to protest Social Security offsets

More than 400 area educators attend meeting at Iron Horse

Hundreds of teachers, outraged over a pair of programs that take away Social Security benefits, turned out at a March 21 meeting at Iron Horse Middle School.

Iron Horse art teacher Karin Alexander organized the event, which drew better than 450 teachers from throughout the San Ramon Valley Unified School District. At issue are the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and the Windfall Elimination Provision.

Alexander explained that the GPO reduces public employees spousal or survivor benefits by two-thirds of their public pension. The WEP reduces the earned Social Security benefits of an individual who also receives a public pension from a job not covered by Social Security.

Since teachers receive a pension they are affected by this as are local, state and federal government employees.

"So if you worked your whole life in the private sector and then became a teacher, you can't get the Social Security benefits you paid into all those years," Alexander explained.

"If you contribute you should get your fair share, the same as any other profession," she added.

Teacher Susan Carter addressed the group, explaining how she tried to get survivor benefits when her husband passed away. Tearfully, she described talking to the Social Security administration and being told that because she was a teacher she could not get survivor benefits.

California is one of only 14 states in the U.S. that has these two pieces of legislation, and Alexander called on those assembled to work towards having them repealed.

"There are two bills, House Bill 235 and Senate Bill 484. If they are passed they will repeal this unjust legislation. And President Obama has already said that if they are passed he will sign these bills," she said.

Alexander provided the crowd with contact information for federal legislators and urged them to begin a letter writing campaign.

"We need to show them our passion, we need to let them know that we need them to pass these bills and get them to President Obama's desk," she said.

Besides writing to legislators, Alexander told the group that what they need to do is get organized.

"We need to have a committee," she said. "No one person can do this. We all have to do this together."


Like this comment
Posted by Julia
a resident of Alamo
on Mar 30, 2009 at 7:50 am

Hey teachers get real...everyone is going through tough times, now it's your turn.

Remember your job is just a job and subject to all the ups and downs that we all go through. What you do for 9 to 10 months a year is not some mystical thing, your just doing a job and some of you are really not very good at it. And don't give me that same old story, "it's for the children". It's for you and only you, some of you couldn't care less for the children.

Like this comment
Posted by Sarah
a resident of Danville
on Mar 30, 2009 at 8:13 am

I find it amazing that illegal immigrants, who never paid into social security, get benefits, but teachers are exempt.

Like this comment
Posted by Tom
a resident of Danville
on Mar 30, 2009 at 11:03 am

The teachers union is a BIG problem for me. Today they support the illegal aliens that flood our schools. They support tenure and oppose any pay for performance system. While this system is in place I have no desire to go along with raising my taxes. If they are willing to reform I am more than willing to dig deeper for them.

Like this comment
Posted by Dawn
a resident of Alamo
on Mar 30, 2009 at 11:08 am

QUOTE ONE: "There are two bills, House Bill 235 and Senate Bill 484. If they are passed they will repeal this unjust legislation. And President Obama has already said that if they are passed he will sign these bills," she said.

QUOTE TWO: "We need to have a committee," she said. "No one person can do this. We all have to do this together."

Ah, Obama will sign it, of course. Sounds like a five-year-old... "... but YOU SAID..!"

ESPECIALLY if you have a 'committee.'

Teachers are exempt because they ALREADY HAVE A GOVERNMENT-SPONSORED PENSION PLAN, like our 'legislators.'

DOUBLE-DIPPING costs the taxpayer DOUBLE.

Simple as that.

Like this comment
Posted by David
a resident of Danville
on Mar 30, 2009 at 10:47 pm

Lets see, If you worked all your life in the private sector and retired and your husband did the same, you would draw your own Social
Security benefits as long as the amount was mor than 1/2 of your husband. When he died your benefit wouldn't change all that much. So why should you get survivors benefits on top of your teachers pension which is the government equivalent of social security. She didn't get any survivors benefit because 2/3 of her pension was more than the survivors benefit she would qualify for. As for the other ofset it only happens when you have had two careers in your life. One with a goverment pension and one in the private sector. I am not sure what the reduction percentage is on the second. If it's too high it might be unfair, but I doubt it. The goal is to give you the amount you would have received if all your earnings were covered by social security. They want it to be like a private pension which is funded ON TOP of social security. Those have almost vanished.

Like this comment
Posted by Greed
a resident of Walnut Creek
on Mar 31, 2009 at 3:26 am

I'm shocked at how this story has been presented. For a small, free paper the folks who put it together usually do a good job. However, this story was not researched and is very biased. This article leaves the reader with the impression that teachers are somehow being swindled out of social security benefits (which they are not). No effort was made to present the reasoning behind these two pieces of legislation. A simple Google search and maybe an interview with somebody from CalsTRS or SSA could have resulted in some balanced reporting.

Frankly, the teachers deserve little to no support on this issue. This article doesn't even mention that California teachers don't pay Social Security.

Social Security is little more than welfare. It is a wealth reallocation scheme by the government. Low income earners receive a larger benefit (about 55% of pre-retirement income) than do high income earners (about 25% of pre-retirement income). Before WEP, workers not covered by Social Security (California teachers fall into this group) were automatically treated as low income earners and were thus skewed towards the 55% number. Don't forget they also got their pension.

GPO also prevents an unfair advantage. Social Security, again, is a welfare scheme imposed upon Americans. It reallocates wealth from two earner households to one earner households. For example, a woman who never worked outside the home might be entitled to a $500 monthly survivor/dependent benefit based on her husband's earnings. However, if she worked outside the home as a newspaper reporter and was therefore entitled to an $800 monthly retirement benefit based on her own earnings then her survivor benefit must be reduced dollar for dollar by her own retirement benefit. However, prior to GPO, if that woman was a California teacher (instead of a newspaper reporter), she got her $800 pension benefit PLUS she got the $500 survivor benefit. Thus, teachers received a benefit that everyday citizens didn't get. How is that fair?

Why do teachers opt not to participate in Social Security? If you earn an average of $34K/year and retire at age 62, you will receive a Social Security benefit that replaces about 41% of your income after 35 years of employment. With 35 years of service and retiring at age 62, a teacher would receive about 94% of their income.

Frankly, teachers can cry in one hand and spit in the other and see which one fills up faster.

By the way, if these two laws are fully repealed the estimated cost would be $81B. Guess I'm supposed to pay even more in taxes to give teachers an unfair advantage.

And, as a gay male in a registered domestic partnership, I don't receive a dime of dependent/survivor benefit since the Federal Government doesn't recognize my relationship and my partner is not a teacher. But, if my partner were a teacher then I could receive a survivor benefit from his pension. Yet, again, another advantage afforded teachers. So, exactly why am I supposed to feel sorry for the teachers?

Like this comment
Posted by Katie
a resident of Danville
on Mar 31, 2009 at 8:46 am

Let's not forget that unlike others who receive a comparable salary, teachers work just over half a year for their pay. Sure, they have continuing education requirements, as does any occupation that is licensed. Frankly, I'd love to be paid $80k to work half a year. Indeed, in our zest to have the best teachers, we have forgotten that the occupation is one of public service. California teachers have it far better than most professionals with far more education and who work far longer hours. They're going to have to accept that along with anyone else in the public sector - police, fireman, etc. - one doesn't get to double dip on social security on the back of others. Be grateful for what you have, teachers.

Like this comment
Posted by "Doing it for the kids"
a resident of Danville
on Mar 31, 2009 at 9:23 am

What a bunch of bitter angry people you are! Now I know why your kids are the way they are. I hope you have your precious kids in private schools since you are so negative on public educators, or maybe you could accept some of the responsibility yourself. Just why do you think people don't go into education? Try it sometime if you think it is so easy!

Like this comment
Posted by Greed
a resident of Walnut Creek
on Mar 31, 2009 at 1:51 pm

Doing it for the kids: It is not bitter to say that all public employees (teachers included) who do not participate in Social Security should not be given a greater social security benefit than any other member of our workforce. Social Security is an inherently unfair welfare system. It is designed to reallocate wealth from high income earners to low income earners and from dual income families to single income families.

Repealing WEP and GPO will ONLY benefit public employees - who are NOT paying into the system. I find it ironic that most of our middle class white teachers would be opposed to paying more in taxes to increase welfare payments to the poor but have no problem wanting more in welfare payments (via Social Security) for themselves.

And, yes, I send my children to a private school. When I saw the number of teachers in this area who gave to Prop 8, you bet I pulled my kids out and sent them to a private school where I can be sure that they are not discriminated against by school staff who judge them for having gay parents.

Like this comment
Posted by Dawn
a resident of Alamo
on Mar 31, 2009 at 3:58 pm

To 'Greed -'

Would just like to point out that, while sending your children to private school, you are still kindly paying for public education via your taxes...

And as I am childless, I, too, am supporting the teachers without getting any direct, immediate benefit.

So, 'Thank you!' to us!

We have dear friends who are teachers in another CA district who ABHOR the Union but have no recourse other than to be a member. They're happy with their chosen profession and knew what they were getting into.

Like this comment
Posted by Marie
a resident of Danville
on Apr 1, 2009 at 9:12 am

Very interesting comments!!! I think that Tom said it best “the teacher’s union is a BIG problem, they support illegal aliens, support tenure, and oppose pay for performance.” These teachers don’t know how good they have it. Not only do they work less hours and days per year, they also have many parent volunteers doing their jobs for them. No where else in our country do you have parents doing so much teacher work. On top of all of this, I have not yet met a teacher (here in SRVUSD), that has my child’s (or any others) best interest at heart. As Julia said “it’s just a job”. I can only hope that we will meet just one teacher that loves his/her job enough that they put the children first. Sorry to be so negative, but this is the world we live in here in CA.

Like this comment
Posted by Pat
a resident of Danville
on Apr 1, 2009 at 11:49 am

I just have to respond to Marie's comment. I have had the pleasure to meet many teachers in this district who love their job and who do put the kids needs first. My 3 kids have attended Greenbrook, Charlotte Wood and San Ramon Valley High and at each one there has been a teacher or teachers who have made a positive impact on my children and I thank them for that (especially Mr Swenson at Charlotte Wood). What a teacher supports is his or her own business!I am thankful to live in this town, in this world here in Ca.

Like this comment
Posted by Marie
a resident of Danville
on Apr 1, 2009 at 6:19 pm

Pat: you and your kids are lucky!

Like this comment
Posted by Ron
a resident of Danville
on Apr 2, 2009 at 3:59 pm

Some parts of this does not sound fair but I dont support the schools. Yes I have my kids in private school because the public schools are a joke. Also, who is really planning to live off social security? You need to have another plan and if there is any social security, look at it as a bonus.

Like this comment
Posted by Teacherman
a resident of San Ramon Valley High School
on Apr 3, 2009 at 2:49 pm

Points to consider:

1. Young teachers can not buy homes in this area. Because of salaries, we simply have not been able to get approved for a home. Its not going to get any better either. The SRVUSD has to outsource teachers.

2. Most teachers care about their students. I spend everyday of my week collaborating with teachers and I have never heard a teacher say that their students don't come first. Maybe it just doesn't look that way to you. Don't judge us all because of one.

3. The Teachers Union is a problem and should be reformed.

4. If enough people call education a joke, then that is what it will become. And guess what, you will still be paying for that joke! Change your attitude. Be part of the solution not the problem.

5. I guess our consistent Distinguished School status and API scores are results of this joke.

I completely understand the argument about Social Security and double-dipping, but you should not be bashing people who have chosen to make public education their career. Trust me, we are not in it for the money.

Like this comment
Posted by Roz
a resident of Danville
on Apr 3, 2009 at 6:30 pm

From the comments I read regarding the recent protest by teachers of social security offsets, I don't think most of the public understands the real issues that teachers are addressing with complaint. Regardless of your views on public education, regardless of your views on the dedication of teachers in this area, you cannot deny that teachers should have equal rights. Teachers are not asking for anything more than what they are entitled to.
If, for example, a person works in the private sector for 20 years and pays into social security, and then he/she decides to become a teacher, the minute that person starts contributing to the State Teachers Retirement Fund, he/she forfeits a great proportion of the social security they earned prior. This is unfair. It actually punishes people for becoming teachers later in life.
If a person contributed to social security, he/she should get the same benefits, based on their contributions, as everyone else. This is not double-dipping. This is receiving your fair share in benefits.
Everyone is experiencing financial crisis right now. But this is matter of "what's just, what's fair. The chart of benefits, based on contributions, should be the same for everyone -- not lessened because you choose to be a teacher.

Like this comment
Posted by Teva
a resident of San Ramon
on Apr 3, 2009 at 6:48 pm

Why is it that most of the comments above are negative? I think it may be because most happy people go around smiling and seeing the beauty in the world; even when times are difficult they find joy. Happy people don't think about writing letters. Angry ones have to vent.
And maybe when you're angry, you see the world negatively. Very sad.
My kids have had fantastic teachers in this area -- teachers who are dedicated to their profession and care about their students. They do work on their own time, nights and weekends for their students. I don't think teachers work 10 months of the year --- they work a full 12 months and just get paid for ten.

Like this comment
Posted by Greed
a resident of Walnut Creek
on Apr 4, 2009 at 3:34 am


You are incorrect. In the case of GPO, teachers are asking to be treated in a more favorable way than the average worker. Social security redistributes wealth from a dual income family to a single income family. If a woman is a housewife, then she will receive social security even though she never paid into the system. (A better name for this is WELFARE.) She gets this welfare simply by having a husband who paid into the social security system. If a woman does work outside the home and pays social security, she will have her spousal benefit offset dollar for dollar by the amount she is entitled to receive based on her own earnings. This is not fair. Prior to passage of GPO, California teachers were treated as if they were housewives. Even though they were receiving a pension they could still collect spousal social security benefits. GPO stopped this practice and began treating teachers just like any other dual income family. If teachers really wanted to improve the system then they would tell Congress to stop paying welfare to housewives. But, instead, they simply want GPO repealed. So, while every other dual income family will have their benefits cut, teachers will no longer experience this situation. That is asking to receive a better benefit than their counterparts in private industry.

In the case of WEP, you are correct in stating that a teacher who worked 20 years in private industry (paying social security) will receive a reduction in the social security benefit. You must work 30 years in private industry to avoid WEP. There could be some improvement in this area, but completely eliminating it is nothing shy of greed. As a high income worker, I will only receive a small portion of my pre-retirement earnings even though I have paid the maximum for many years. To me that's unfair. But, that's the way social security is set-up so I've learned to accept the rules.

Like this comment
Posted by Lynn
a resident of another community
on Nov 19, 2009 at 9:07 pm

A friend of mine is currently fighting a unjustified legal charge that might cause her to lose her teaching job. Being a relatively young woman in her forties she is a long way from retirement. After reading this article maybe its the Teacher's Retirement Program that needs to reform and not the government!!!! My friend is getting emotionally disabled by these unjust charges and is a wreck. What does the California Teacher's Retirement Program provide for disabled teachers? Apparently they haven't paid into Social Security so they can't collect disability!!!!

Like this comment
Posted by Teacher X
a resident of another community
on Feb 2, 2010 at 7:58 pm

I am actually a teacher in another state which also doesn't require teachers to pay social security. I have, however, had to work a second job for the past four years in order to make ends meet. I have to pay social security for my second job. This makes no sense to me, as I will not be elligible to collect.

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: *

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Central Oregon population is soaring with former Californians
By Tim Hunt | 5 comments | 508 views