Retired Teachers Week observed

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By Allen Schuler

 You may not know this, but the week of October 21 through 27 has been designated Retired Teachers Week.  Never heard of it?  That’s possible since this is only the second year time has been set aside to recognize the continuing contributions of retired educators.  However, given the already crowded number of weeks, days, and months set aside for some group or cause, why create another?

Foremost, Retired Teachers Week was established to honor the men and women who spent the decades of their working careers making their corner of the world a little better place though the business of educating thousands of Bullitt County and Kentucky youth.  Such a career path is not always an easy one nor is it one of the most lucrative a college graduate might follow.  The decision to become and remain a teacher always requires a certain willingness to give of oneself for others.

Further, this week is about educating people about some of what retired teachers continue to offer their communities.  Not surprisingly, teacher retirees are not sitting in rockers watching the world go by while soaking up, as some would have it, “tax payers’ money.”  No.  They are active and they are involved.  The Bullitt County Retired Teachers Association, a local of the Kentucky Retired Teachers Association, counts among its many endeavors having raised $5000 for the Relay for Life last year, maintaining two $1000 scholarships for local students, as well as contributing supplies and goods to area Family Resource Centers and food banks.  Local retirees also reported performing over 5500 hours of volunteer work last year alone, which, if one uses the non-partisan Independent Sector’s calculation for the worth of an hour of volunteer work in Kentucky—$17.91—that means an economic dividend of $98,505 for Bullitt County.  Of course, those hours were only the ones reported; many retired teachers don’t record and report all the hours they spend performing volunteer work.

In addition, retired teachers offer a significant, more tangible, economic contribution to the community.  They bring home real dollars in the form of their annuity benefits.  During their working careers, 9.5 to 10% of a teacher’s salary is set aside to fund their retirement, an amount matched by the state (most years; not always).  That fund, in turn, is supervised by a board elected by teachers; it plus the interest accrued provides money to retirees every month for the rest of their lives.  Thanks to that life-long benefit, the more than 1000 Kentucky teacher retirees aged 90 and over who are still living and receiving benefits have not had to go on the public dole because the money in their 401(k)s ran out. 

Contrary to what some may believe, retired Kentucky teachers are not eligible for Social Security benefits.  In fact, teachers were specifically excluded from receiving Social Security benefits when that system was created in 1935.  Their exclusion necessitated the creation of the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System, which was formed three years later.  Today, KTRS has a major economic impact on the state since it provides roughly $129.5 million a month in annuity benefits to retired teachers in the state.  Given that 92% of all Kentucky teacher retirees remain in Kentucky, every county in the state benefits.  In Bullitt County alone, 408 teacher retirees received $14,860,879 in benefits last year, money that was spent supporting local stores and utilizing local services.

So, what do retired Bullitt County teachers do to celebrate “their” week?  Well, they give back.  This year the association elected to donate as many books as possible to the libraries of our public schools.  In this current, budget-cutting era, book donation seemed like a significant action.  Besides, what could be more appropriate for teachers than providing books?  As of this writing, BCRTA members have committed a total of more than twenty-five books to be spread throughout nineteen of the twenty-one Bullitt County public schools.  We anticipate more before we’re through. 

Retired teachers don’t really retire.  Where possible, they continue to give.  It’s what they do.

Allen Schuler is a retired Bullitt County educator and current president of the Bullitt County Retired Teachers Association.