This week, the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) released their “plan” for “real Texas budget solutions.” In this proposal, TPPF is calling for all future government workers to be pushed into 401(k) retirement plans. In addition to this recent attack on public employees (including public education professionals), Mr. Bill King posted an update about meeting with the North Montgomery County Retired Teachers Association (NMCRTA) in his blog. He calls the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) “significantly underfunded.” Finally, the Texarkana Gazette published an editorial calling for “real reform” of all public pension plans, including those in Texas.

We know now that many groups and politically motivated individuals think they know what is best for Texas public pension plans. Often, I find myself thinking they are simply manufacturing a crisis in order to institute change. I am not the only one that thinks this way. Mr. Forrest Wilder of the Texas Observer wrote about a similar opinion in his column this week. Not only are these groups offering “solutions” to problems that do not exist, they are not telling the entire story about how the TRS pension fund is a vital part of the state economy and provides retirement security for one out of every 20 Texans. This is especially true for individuals who do not receive Social Security. Many people simply do not know that most public school employees do not pay into the Social Security program. Many times, these groups and organizations make comparisons about TRS with other states’ pension systems (many of which are coordinated with Social Security, and all of which have different benefit formulas and vesting requirements).

TRTA is engaged with protecting your TRS benefits programs. We are encouraged that so many of you are following this debate and are actively participating in setting the record straight about our Texas TRS pension fund. For those of you coming to the TRTA 59th Annual Convention next week, we will be sharing new ways we can work together to protect your benefits.

After convention, TRTA will release this information in the news bulletin and through programs offered in our local units. These are challenging times, but TRTA is ready to meet the challenge!

Last Minute Convention Announcements

Thank you to everyone that is taking time to participate in this year’s TRTA 59th Annual Convention. The meeting will be held in Houston at the Westin Galleria March 25-27 and is completely sold out. All of the materials and presentations will be available on the TRTA web site after the convention for those unable to attend.

As you know, we are honored to have a number of state legislators participating in this year’s event. If you are attending the convention and are a constituent for any of the following legislators, please see Tim Lee or Cindee Sharp before the TRTA Legislative Luncheon on Tuesday (March 27) so that we may arrange for you to meet personally with these dedicated public servants. (Senator John Whitmire; Representative Alma Allen; Representative Larry Gonzales; and Representative Dan Huberty).

Finally, the TRTA Convention Keynote speaker, Ms. Joni Rodgers, is making her book Bald in the Land of Big Hair available for sale as part of her presentation. Ms. Rodgers and her publisher are giving all of the proceeds to the Texas Retired Teachers Foundation! This generous offer provides you with an encouraging story and a donation to our own charitable organization. The suggested donation for the book is $14 and checks should be made out to TRTF (donations are tax deductible). Ms. Rodgers will stay as long as necessary to sign books and share stories!

Final Comments

TRTA is working to protect and improve your TRS benefit programs. We are also working every day to educate people that are misinformed about your TRS pension trust fund. TRTA is a powerful voice, but we must be mindful of those groups that are working to eliminate the TRS benefit plan for future education retirees. Even though they say these changes will not impact current retirees, this is the biggest fallacy of them all.