News in Brief: A Washington Roundup

December 03, 2003 1 min read

Teachers’ Rally Seeks Social Security Action

About 500 public school employees from the Houston area rallied at a congressional district office of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay last week to support a bill that would allow them to collect more retirement benefits.

Teachers gathered at his Sugar Land, Texas, office on Nov. 24 to urge the Republican lawmaker to allow a bill to reach the House floor that would let them receive Social Security spousal benefits in addition to their pension plans.

The proposed Social Security Fairness Act has enough votes to pass, with 277 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives. But Mr. DeLay, an opponent of the measure, can prevent it from reaching the floor.

“Our goal is for Representative DeLay to hear our united voices as we encourage him to support what’s right for Texas school employees,” President John Cole of the Texas Federation of Teachers said in a statement.

The bill would eliminate a 1977 federal law that created what is known as the “government-pension offset,” which affects many states and a majority of Texas teachers. That law stipulates that retirees with state or local government pensions cannot also receive full spousal Social Security benefits generated by a husband’s or wife’s career.

Rep. DeLay’s office did not return phone calls. But in a press statement, Mr. DeLay, who did not appear at the rally, said the bill would cost the Social Security program $50 billion over 10 years.

—Lisa Goldstein

U.S., Ireland Sign Pact On Special Education

To address such challenges in special education as the growing number of children diagnosed with autism, the Department of Education has teamed up with its counterpart in Ireland.

Secretary of Education Rod Paige and Irish Minister of Education Noel Dempsey signed an agreement on Nov. 19 to share research on issues affecting children with special needs.

The agreement calls for joint efforts in assistive technology, teacher-exchange programs, and distance-based training. The ceremony was part of International Education Week, Nov. 17- 21.

The two countries already had signed a memorandum of understanding in 2000 to collaborate on education issues.

—Lisa Goldstein