COVID-19 pandemic could push Texas teachers to retirement

'There’s just a lot of anxiety and fear that people have about going back into the classroom...'

SAN ANTONIO – Concerns about a teacher shortage are now amplified by the concerns that more teachers might decide to retire because of the pandemic.

Tim Lee, the executive director of the Texas Retired Teachers Association, says his office has been getting more and more calls from teachers who are eligible for retirement and are asking questions about what to do.

“There’s just a lot of anxiety and fear that people have about going back into the classroom and what that potentially means for their health,” he said.

According to the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, which handles benefits for the state, 62 is the average age of teachers who retire.

“There are about between 125,000 and 140,000 TRS active teachers that are eligible to retire and could turn in their paperwork at any time and choose to leave the school system if they like,” Lee said.

RELATED: Custodians, cafeteria workers and bus drivers also fear returning to Texas schools

KSAT tracked down the number of teacher retirements in some area school districts. Here’s what they showed.

  • NEISD had 69 teachers so far in 2020 who filed for retirement, compared to 46 teachers in 2019.
  • NISD had 105 retirement filings this year, compared to 108 in 2019.
  • SAISD says there are 237 teachers who filed, compared to 198 in 2019 and 215, in 2018. There were about 260 in 2017 and 294 back in 2016.
  • South San ISD says in the 2020 school year, there were 10 teachers who filed for retirement, compared to 15 in 2019 and 10 the year before.

TRS says there is a decrease of 13.5% in the number of retirement filings this year when compared to last year. It reports 22,694 retirement applications were filed in 2020 to date. In 2019, there were 26,238 for the same time frame.

“I’ve also heard folks saying that they didn’t plan on retiring until kind of after the start of the school year to see how things were going,” Lee said. “And then they may make that decision when the winter break comes in.”

Adrian Reyna, with the SA Alliance, says he’s heard many teachers are considering retirement.

“There seems to be, like I said, folks who were maybe on the fence about coming back for another year or retiring or changing professions,” Reyna said. “That decision became a lot easier for them.”

A survey by the Association of Texas Public Educators of more than 4,200 educators showed their top concern when going back to school this year was the health and safety of their students, followed by their own health and safety.

“Our educators, they do love their jobs and they love your kids, and they’re probably more interested in the safety and well-being of their students and their students’ families more than they are even their own,” Lee said.

He adds that he’s been in touch with state leaders about the interest in bringing back retired school employees without penalty if there is a need.

RELATED: Survey says majority of teenage students are concerned about attending in-person classes this fall

About the Authors:

Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.