Ask Jack Jack Ehnes

Is CalSTRS membership mandatory and how does this impact Social Security benefits earned from previous employment?

CalSTRS membership is mandatory for full-time California public school preK-12 teachers, community college instructors and public school administrators. Regardless of any previous employment, California public school educators do not contribute to Social Security. Thus, they do not receive Social Security for their CalSTRS-covered employment.

Two federal rules, the Windfall Elimination Provision and the Government Pension Offset, affect any potential Social Security benefit earned from previous employment. Both offsets could leave you with a smaller Social Security check or no check at all. However, your CalSTRS retirement benefit will not be reduced by these offsets.

The Windfall Elimination Provision affects your Social Security benefits that are based on your earnings. The Government Pension Offset affects your spousal, widow or widower Social Security benefits that are based on your spouse’s earnings.

Our CalSTRS Member Handbook provides information on both offsets, in addition to our fact sheet Social Security, CalSTRS and You and our brief informational video, Introduction to Social Security.

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