May 2012

Teacher retirements up in the midst of budget cuts, new high-stakes tests

Texas teacher retirements rose sharply in 2011 and continue to rise in 2012, according to data provided by the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS).


From September of 2011 to January 2012, TRS processed 8,972 teacher retirements. That’s an increase of 1,976 retirements from the same time span in the prior school year. Moreover, teacher retirements have risen steadily since 2009.

TRS does not collect data from teachers on their reasons for retiring, but it is reasonable to conclude that several factors have contributed to the uptick.

  • Early resignation incentives—In the last couple of years, many districts have offered early resignation incentives as a means of reducing anticipated budget shortfalls. Teachers who intend to leave, either to retire or find another position elsewhere, are seizing the moment to take advantage of the offer.
  • Layoffs—Some teachers nearing retirement have been among those who have lost jobs as districts reduced their workforces. Some have also voluntarily left to preserve jobs for their peers.
  • Greater emphasis on testing—Texas’ new, even higher-stakes standardized student tests are getting a trial run this year. Teachers have been vocal about what they feel is an overemphasis on standardized tests. Some may have left to avoid the increasing demands.
  • Low job satisfaction—Teacher job satisfaction is as low as it has been in two decades (see this story for details). Bigger classes, fewer resources, layoffs, and high-stakes testing are all contributing factors.
  • Aging—According to Profile of Teachers in the U.S. 2011, an increasing number of teachers over 50 have retired since 2005.

Teacher retirements also spiked in 2004 due to the enactment of the Social Security Protection Act that eliminated or reduced the amount of Social Security benefits an individual could collect because of the government pension offset (GPO). Many TRS members chose to retire before July 1, 2004, to maximize their Social Security benefits.