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08 Nov
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Thank You TRTA Members for Voting! We are Ready with Robust Legislative Agenda

Now that the 2018 midterm elections are over, we want to extend a sincere “Thank You!” to our TRTA members and supporters who voted and helped get the vote out in this critical election cycle. Voter turnout in Texas soared, and we know many educators—retirees and pre-retirees—participated.

Texas Educators Vote, a non-partisan group that promotes a culture of voting among educators and students, provided the following voter statistics:

Percentage of eligible Texas voters registered to vote:
2014 – 74.15%                    2018 – 79.40%

Increase of 5.25% in voter registration!

Percentage of registered Texas voters who turned out to vote:
2014 – 33%                          2018 – 53%

That is an increase of 20% in voter turnout! The last time voter turnout in Texas was this high was in 1970!

Many of you may have heard that the number one issue in this election around the country was health care. The need to improve access and cost for health care dominated the national and state narratives on why many people voted this election cycle. Health care ranked higher than the economy as the major issue driving this election.

TRTA members know all too well that if your health care costs are outpacing your ability to meet those expenses, you really have no financial or retirement security. Many retirees also know that higher health care costs create financial pressure when living on a fixed income with no COLA. Some financial relief is needed now if retired school employees expect to have a chance to meet the rising costs of living.

Now, the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) is busy preparing for the 86th Legislative Session that begins on January 8, 2019. Newly elected legislators and those returning to office in January already can begin to pre-file bills for the upcoming session starting as early as Monday, November 12!

Many legislators have not served in the Texas Legislature before and will want to know more about the issues that affect retired educators. Now is the time for TRTA members to begin reaching out to their state Senators and Representatives and begin the education process!

Who Represents Me?

You may use this app available through the Texas Tribune to determine who will be representing you in the Texas Legislature in 2019. Just enter your address where indicated and the page will auto-populate with information about the elected officials serving your district.

Specifically, look to Texas Senate and Texas House results to determine your state legislature officials. The Texas Legislature is the entity that governs the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) pension fund and TRS-Care retiree health insurance program.

For returning officials, you can find contact information for district and Capitol offices on the Texas Legislature website (please bear in mind this website has not yet been updated with newly elected officials).

House

Senate

Newly elected, first-time Senators and Representatives may have a website or Facebook page where you can find current contact information.

TRTA’s Legislative Agenda

Retired educators will have much at stake when lawmakers come to Austin. TRTA is prepared to go to the Legislature. We are going to fight for more pension funding, benefit enhancements for TRS retirees and improved TRS-Care funding.

We are hearing from many of our friends in the Legislature, as well as those who ran for office this year, that the issues related to TRS are important and require resolution.

As a TRTA member or supporter, we know you are already doing your part to help us achieve our policy agenda next session.
If you are new to TRTA, or perhaps you are not yet a member, we want you to know our member advocacy effort is effective, efficient and inclusive. As one TRTA member recently said to me, “We need to get everyone off the sidelines and in the game. I want to tell all TRS retirees to stop messing around, let’s get tough and get active with TRTA!”

We agree! There are more than 440,000 TRS retirees or beneficiaries. TRTA membership is growing fast, but we still to get everyone on the team, suited up and ready to win.

Over the past several weeks, TRTA has provided a series of informative videos detailing the items included in our legislative agenda for the coming session. This series, entitled Retirees Deserve Better, outlines the major issues affecting retirees and TRS.

Retirees Deserve Better Video Series

Now is a great time to read and review the blog posts we created and watch the brief but educational videos again.

  1. Series Overview: TRTA Releases New Video Series: “TRS Retirees Deserve Better!”
  2. TRS Retirees Deserve Better Video: Rate of Return
  3. TRS Retirees Deserve Better Video: Defined Benefits
  4. TRS Retirees Deserve Better Video: Cost-of-Living Adjustment
  5. TRS Retirees Deserve Better Video: TRS-Care

Next Steps

Thank you to all of our members for voting and being engaged in the legislative process. Please stay tuned to the Inside Line and also our next issue of The VOICE to learn more about how you can get involved!

TRTA is ready to meet with all elected officials to discuss TRS-Care and all other items on our legislative agenda. We will work with them to establish the best policy possible to support our dedicated educational workforce and retiree population!

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08 Nov
0

November is Foundation Month! Read About TRTF’s Classroom Assistance Grants

November has been designated by the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) Board of Directors as a time to raise funds for and honor the charitable endeavors of our partner organization, the Texas Retired Teachers Foundation (TRTF).

TRTF just launched its annual appeal to raise funds for its four primary charitable programs and its endowment fund: “A Helping Hand,” Classroom Assistance Grants, Beginning Teacher Scholarships, the Disaster Relief Fund and the Lehr-Pritchard Endowment Fund. TRTF hopes to raise $100,000 in donations to support its programs to help educators of the past, present, and future!

Each year, the Texas Retired Teachers Foundation (TRTF) distributes thirty $500 classroom assistance grants to educators all across Texas. The grants are awarded to public school teachers who demonstrate commitment to the education of Texas children through the creation of programs, events, learning platforms, or other innovative classroom projects.

Since 2008, TRTF has provided more than $480,000 to educators of the past, present, and future, including $78,000 in grants to public school teachers.

We challenge our members to watch the video below and really see how donations are changing lives! You can also read more about all of TRTF’s charitable endeavors in the third quarter issue of The VOICE.

Please consider making your year-end, tax-deductible donation to TRTF this November. To donate online, please click here. To make a donation by phone, please call 1.800.880.1650 and ask for Sarah.

Bryan Teacher and Students Create “Texan Brews” Coffee Cart

One of this year’s classroom assistance grant recipients was Dena Favors, a middle school teacher in Bryan, Texas. She put her $500 towards starting a coffee delivery service for students in her SAILS class. SAILS stands for social academic independent living skills. The class is for scholars who have mild to moderate disabilities.

Favors’ students go door-to-door between classrooms delivering coffee to teachers. They charge $1 per cup of coffee, and each student is assigned a role. One student will knock on the door and greet the teacher. Another student will collect the money, and the other students help prepare the coffee, hand it over and check the teachers’ punch card. Teachers are ordering the coffee via a Google Form, and each Tuesday and Thursday, the students deliver the orders.

The students are working on basic living skills, according to Favors.

“Some of our students are learning to communicate. They have low verbal skills,” Favors said. “They’re getting to learn social skills.”

Since the program has started Favors has seen progression in those communication skills. One of her students has started to lift his head more when speaking. Others have become more confident in their ability to communicate with adults.

“I love watching them come in and asking about coffee cart,” Favors said. “That gives me joy to watch them grow.”

Favors was ecstatic when she found out that TRTF had selected her application for a grant.

“It was such a huge help. Without it, we wouldn’t have been able to start it. I’m really grateful that we were able to get the money,” Favors said.

Applications Now Available!

TRTF is now accepting applications for Classroom Assistance Grants and will award thirty $500 grants to public school teachers in Texas for the 2019-2020 school year. To download an application, please click here. Applications are due to the TRTF office no later than 5:00 p.m. on February 28, 2019.

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05 Nov
0

Election Day is Tomorrow!

Tomorrow, Tuesday, November 6, 2018 is General Election day! We know many members and friends of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) early voted between October 22 and November 2. In fact, voter turnout in Texas has soared beyond the turnout for the most recent midterm election held in 2014!

Per the Texas Tribune, “preliminary data shows turnout over 12 days of early voting in those 30 counties (where 78 percent of registered voters live) . . . surpassed the entire turnout of the 2014 midterm election — more than early voting and election-day voting combined.” Read more about voter turnout by clicking here.

However, if you have not yet cast your vote, tomorrow is the day! Here are few helpful resources for you as you make your voting plans. Be sure to invite a friend, family member or colleague to come and vote too! Be prepared to wait in line, but sure to stay and cast that vote!

Where do I vote on Election Day?

It depends on your county! In some counties, voters can vote at any polling location; but in other counties, voters must vote in their precinct. Check your county election website to find your voting location or check www.VOTE411.org.

What is on my ballot?

Find your ballot on your county election website or check www.VOTE411.org, which will have all statewide races and local races if there is a League of Women Voters in your community.

Who or what do I vote for?

TRTA does not endorse candidates for political office. However, it is easy to compare candidates on the non-partisan website www.VOTE411.org. You can even print your choices before going to the polls. For more information pertaining specifically to education issues, try visiting Texas Educators Vote, another non-partisan group. You can also check with your fellow TRTA members if you have questions about the candidates running for office in your district.

What about voter ID?

Don’t forget your ID when heading to the polls. Learn more about what types of identification are acceptable by clicking here.

TRTA has many dedicated members putting in effort to civically engage their communities. Thank you! You should feel great about what we have accomplished together so far! Let’s celebrate by crossing the finish line together and have EVERY EDUCATOR VOTE!

TRS Retirees Deserve Better Video: TRS-Care

TRTA has been sounding the alarm for TRS-Care for many, many years. In 2017, these alarms finally sounded loud and clear, and became a new reality for many retirees when the TRS-Care budget shortfall caused increased premiums and decreased benefits for participants.

TRS-Care has been suffering the consequences of a funding formula that relies on active teacher payroll. The funding for retiree health care isn’t linked to the actual costs of running the program. In general, costs for providing health care have sky-rocketed in recent years, and TRS-Care has not been immune from these changes.

The rising health care costs have caused the program to undergo numerous budget shortfalls over the years. Retirees shouldered much of the $1.1 billion shortfall in 2017. Between the state and school districts, the Legislature added $484 million to TRS-Care during the regular session. The special session in August 2017 saw the Legislature put an additional $212 million into TRS-Care.

The additional funding was able to save the program. But the cuts were deep and the changes were severe.

As a result of the changes to TRS-Care, more than 36,000 participants left the program. This is because despite additional funding received from the state, the program as it existed in years past was replaced with a one size fits all plan that doesn’t actually fit all needs for all participants. As a result, many plan participants went to health care marketplace to seek other options.

We are asking all TRTA members to reach out to their legislators and candidates running for political office.

Tell them that your health care costs are too high. The state base funding is too low. We need a permanent solution to this ongoing health care problem. At TRTA, we’ve studied this problem for years. We recommend that the state increase its base funding for TRS-Care by 1 percent now and by .25 percent every year for the next 8 years. Thousands of retirees have contacted TRTA and want the traditional Medicare supplement option for retirees age 65 years and older added back to the plan.

Everyone running for office in Texas should know, understand, and agree that TRS retirees deserve retirement security including affordable, accessible health care. TRS Retirees Deserve Better!

Read TRTA’s full list of TRS-Care recommendations!

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