Education retirees paved way for positives we see today
On Tuesday, March 24, I joined over 700 members of the Alabama Education Retirees Association in Montgomery for their annual conference. While there with my special guests Greg Burns and Ann Hubbert, I had the opportunity to visit with many former colleagues, friends I hadn’t seen in a while, and even a few of my former teachers who are still having a huge impact on my life today.
As I spoke to this prestigious group of retired education employees, I asked them how it felt to be a member of the most popular division of AEA. We all know it is true; retirement is something we look forward to. If you think this group is right for you, be prepared – they do not know what a rocking chair looks like! There was so much energy in the room that day it made me tired.
You see, our retirees are totally committed to continuing their stand for public education and the employees who currently work in our public schools. They are constantly sharing their knowledge with others, working with children in their communities, and doing everything possible to ensure that you and I have a strong retirement program waiting on us. Our retired members are very busy indeed as they email, call, and visit legislators to discuss issues such as PEEHIP costs, COLAs, and retirement benefits for current and future retirees. They are truly one of Alabama’s most influential special interest groups.
As if they weren’t busy enough, in 1989 AERA created a foundation program, known as the Elementary/Secondary Education Scholarship Program, for the purpose of providing scholarships to currently employed AEA members wishing to pursue further training. The first scholarships were awarded in 1991, and to date, over two hundred very deserving active educators and countless numbers of students have benefited from this program. Funding for these scholarships comes from state membership, local units across the state, and individual contributions, all of which are tax deductible.
Known as the Alabama Retired Teachers Association in 1955, this division of AEA started out with 557 members. Being diligent in their efforts to be all inclusive, the division’s name was officially changed to the Alabama Education Retirees Association in 2003. Membership has continued to increase each year with current membership over 24,000 strong.
There are numerous leadership opportunities within the AERA. Officers and board members for the division’s nine districts are elected biannually, as are delegates to the AEA Delegate Assembly and the NEA-RA. There are also various positions on committees and special projects.
I have personally benefited from the knowledge and experience members of this division of AEA have and are happy to share on numerous occasions. Our members reap the benefits of their earlier struggles and hard fought victories. Just as current education employees have suffered through years without a true salary increase, the last Cost of Living Adjustment our retirees received was in 2007. This is unacceptable.
Every day we enter our work site we are standing on the shoulders of giants. As we walk down the hallways we are stepping in the footprints of those who paved the way for us. This week it is my honor to pay tribute to the members of the Alabama Education Retirees Association. I salute you and I humbly thank you for all you have done, and all you continue to do.