Iron Horse art teacher Karin Alexander organized the event, which drew more 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 (WEP) programs.
The GPO reduces public employees spousal or survivor benefits by two-thirds of their public pension. According to the Social Security Administration, if you get a monthly civil service pension of $600, two-thirds of that, or $400, must be deducted from your Social Security benefits. For example, if you are eligible for a $500 spouse's, widow's or widower's benefit from Social Security, you will receive $100 per month from Social Security.
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. She said that many people are turning to teaching in their later years, then finding themselves cut off from their Social Security funds.
"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. The other states opted out of the GPO and WEP. Alexander called on those assembled to work toward having them repealed.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."