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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Protecting the golden years


The Pension Benefits Council will be responsible for monitoring a pension reserve fund that will provide “financial support for the government when it does not have sufficient income to pay the pensions,” noted Puerto Rico Teachers Association President Víctor M. Bonilla Sánchez, at center. (Richard Gutiérrez/The San Juan Daily Star)

Representatives of public school teachers announce their intention to be part of the Pension Benefits Council


By Richard Gutiérrez

richardsanjuanstar@gmail.com


For most of us, it takes a long time to rightfully call yourself retired; getting there is an extended journey with many ups and downs.


Receiving that retirement money every month is important for pensioned workers, and teachers are no exception. Being a teacher takes a lot of patience and kindness, lots of work and time in general, so getting a retirement check to live out the golden years is not only important but also fair. Thankfully there are people who are working to take care of these matters and watch over that retirement money, making sure that it is deposited every month into pensioned teachers’ bank accounts.


Retired teachers Félix Figueroa Escobar and Steven Díaz Escobales, alongside active teacher Ángel Javier Pérez Hernández, work tirelessly to prevent pensions for teachers and public workers from being put at risk or disappearing inexplicably, as has happened before with previous pension systems.


“I’ve been retired for 10 years, participating in the retirement pension system for teachers,” Figueroa Escobar told the STAR on Tuesday. “My commitment is to fight for the money the government deposits in the Trust being used properly, and so that nobody who doesn’t want to benefit the future of this money’s growth gets their hands on that money.”


Teachers who count on the backup of the Puerto Rico Teachers Association (AMPR by its Spanish initials) will participate in the upcoming election that will choose the representatives of the Teachers’ Retirement System (SRM by its Spanish initials) and the retirement system of the Pension Benefits Council, a nonprofit entity created after the approval of the adjustment plan for Puerto Rico’s commonwealth debt to help pay the pensions of retired teachers in later years.


“As a result of the Debt Adjustment Plan, a reserve fund was created for the administration of future pensions for public servants, including teachers. This fund will be financial support for the government when it does not have sufficient income to pay the pensions,” noted AMPR President Víctor M. Bonilla Sánchez. “The members of this council will have the function of monitoring the efficient use of the funds that have been set aside for this and their growth so that, in the future, we do not experience again what happened with the retirement [system] of public employees.”


The Pension Benefits Council will be made up of nine members, six of whom will be chosen by election: two from the Central Retirement System, two from the SRM, one from the Judiciary Retirement System, and one active government employee. The election to choose the members of the Pension Benefits Council board began last Friday and will run until Sept. 15.


“The Association recognizes the importance that current and future pensioners have participation and an active voice in the future of their pensions and that decision-making be monitored.” Bonilla Sánchez said. “For this reason, we are supporting these three educators who, for years, have shown that they are committed to the rights of teachers and the defense of their pensions and that they are willing to fight to defend our workers’ retirement money.”


Díaz Escobales, a retired teacher who belonged to both the Teachers’ Federation and the AMPR, as well as the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, said his aim as member of the Pension Benefits Council will be to “defend and protect the money for the pensions that, with a lot of sweat and sacrifice, the teachers earned and that will serve them in having a decent life after the years of dedication they gave to the educational system.”


Figueroa Escobar also stated that “[i]t is very important that teachers in general participate in the election, because for the first time ever in history, retired teachers of Puerto Rico, active and future teachers with benefits and defined retirements, have a reserve fund that will help pay and secure their pensions, in case the government can’t pay those pensions due to some emergency, or in case the results don’t meet their projections.”


Pérez Hernández, active secretary of the AMPR Local Union, noted that he is the only teachers’ representative who is currently trying to become the spokesperson in the Pension Benefits Council for all active government employees. Pérez Hernández is currently an elementary school gym teacher and has been in the education system for more than 23 years. Apart from that, he was president of the Physical Education and Recreation Association of Puerto Rico as well as general coordinator of the Physical Activity Network of Puerto Rico, and is also an ex-president of the Student Council of the Administration of Regional Schools at the University of Puerto Rico.


“Throughout my career I have dedicated myself to defending the rights of the teaching class from various positions, and in recent years among the battles I have fought is, specifically, defending the right of teachers to have a dignified retirement after dedicating their lives to public service and education in the country,” Pérez Hernández said. “I am committed to performing the same representation for all government workers that I have for the teaching profession.”


Bonilla Sánchez pointed out that the AMPR decided to support the intention of these candidates to belong to the Pension Benefits Council because as an institution, since its foundation, it has been a promoter of legislation and initiatives whose purpose is to expand the rights of teachers and ensure their tranquility.


“What today constitutes the Teachers Retirement System was the first great public victory of our Association,” Bonilla Sánchez said. “The AMPR’s unwavering commitment to the retirement of active and retired teachers has been evidenced in all the battles carried out against all government attempts to oppress teachers in the public system and decapitate their retirement. Now we can do nothing but make sure that our teachers and all workers are well represented in this council and have the necessary guarantees that their pensions will be safe.”


To choose the council representatives of the Teachers Retirement System, pensioners under Law 218 and Law 91 and active teachers appointed under Law 91 who as of March 14, 2022 had at least 10 years of service, may vote. To select the representative of active workers, active employees who participate in a defined benefit retirement system of the central government, teachers or the judiciary are eligible.

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