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About Us

How It All Began …

CalRTA began in 1929 as the country struggled through the Great Depression. A small group of teachers banded together to fight for better pensions for colleagues who were living in poverty after a lifetime of teaching. In 1929, a retired schoolteacher received a maximum of just $500 a year in pension benefits.

Laura E. Settle, CalRTA’s founder and president until 1945, drove the dusty highways of the state to help organize teachers in a common cause. All were welcome to join for the annual dues of $1. After several years, CalRTA made its first major breakthrough in 1934, when pensions were finally boosted.

Taking Charge of Their Own Destiny …

Settle set the tone for the organization—a spirit that endures to this day. Retired teachers would take charge of their own destiny. They realized that united, they could accomplish much more than they could acting alone or in separate, competing organizations, though CalRTA leaders went on to form other organizations. Ethel Percy Andrus, founder of AARP, got her start as a leader in CalRTA in the 1940s.

Today, CalRTA is one of the nation’s largest retired teacher organizations with more than 50,000 members in 87 local divisions (similar to chapters) throughout the state.

A Tireless Watchdog …

While very active on issues affecting teachers’ retirement and public education, CalRTA is a nonpartisan organization. Its State Board of Directors takes positions on ballot issues but does not endorse candidates for political office at any level.

CalRTA is characterized by its grassroots activism. Volunteerism is at the core of the Association’s appeal. All officers serve without pay, and leadership grows from the local level.

Over the years, CalRTA has earned a reputation as a tireless watchdog over the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS). The Association helps ensure that the state honors its commitment to teachers and develops and supports fiscally prudent measures to improve the financial security of retired educators.

Priceless Volunteer Service …

CalRTA today is a multi-faceted organization. Its members provide a backbone of volunteer service that keeps local communities strong. In its most recent reporting period, members tallied nearly 2.7 million hours of volunteer service, valued at more than $54.6 million.

Members of the Association also funded more than $550,000 in grants and scholarships to schools as well as current and future teachers.

80th Anniversary …

In 2009, CalRTA celebrated its 80th anniversary. See how we’ve grown in this special anniversary video.