04 Sep

Countdown to the General Election: Let’s Change History!

Labor Day has come and gone and with its passing begins the unofficial start of the 2018 mid-term election season. Historically, Texas tends to have one of the lowest voter turnouts in the United States, and that is something the members of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) hope to change! Let’s change history this year! Let’s start with our dedicated public education retirees and get out the vote.

Although retired educators tend to vote in high numbers in general elections, I believe we can reach a retiree voter turnout of 99 percent! Let’s also make the effort to ensure that the other 1 million members of the Teachers Retirement System of Texas (TRS)–who are not yet retired–reach the same achievement!

If we accomplish this dramatic turnout, our 1.5 million voting block can change history and be the winning factor in any election in Texas. What’s even better is that when Texas educators win, Texas students win too. That is a win/win that really matters!

Such a turnaround in voter turnout is not easy and is not free of personal hardship or time commitment.  It takes hard work, a positive attitude and a can-do spirit to smile and keep persuading when naysayers say “I don’t vote because my vote won’t make a difference.”

TRTA believes, however, that the effort is worth the work! Dedicating your life to educating the populace is all about the results that can only be achieved through hard work. For years, you taught your students to never give up and keep trying. Now, retirees must do the same to effect change and improve our benefits!

The General Election will be held on Tuesday, November 6. Though that date is important, here in Texas we have the privilege of voting early and voting by mail. Election day really starts on October 22–about nine weeks from now. As educators we know you want to be prepared when the first bell rings, so get ready and we will make sure you have everything you need to motivate the naysayers and make it happen.

Every Tuesday over the next nine weeks heading into the early voting period (October 22-November 2), the Inside Line will provide information about how and when to vote, and how to locate resources that help you choose candidates who will support Texas public education and TRTA issues. Mark your calendars for class every Tuesday and use your teaching skills to share your knowledge with others.

Make your plan to vote early during this election cycle! Then use that extra time to share your enthusiasm and your voice with every Texas educator you know and help motivate them to exercise their most important right in our democracy. Together, we can all change history!

Texas Educators Vote

TRTA wants to make voting easy, understandable and fun. However, it is also an imperative for all Texas educators to vote because, put simply, we can’t win in the Legislature unless we have the right team working for us inside the Capitol.

TRTA is part of a coalition of education and civic groups called Texas Educators Vote that is dedicated to one thing and one thing only–creating a culture of voting in Texas public schools. We will be highlighting the resources and activities this coalition uses to motivate educators and students to exercise their right to vote over the next nine weeks. Meanwhile, you can check them out by clicking here. Their site even has a countdown clock and a one-click way to get registered to vote!

The First Message

This week the message is simple: you can’t vote if you are not registered! Although most of our members are registered voters, it pays to verify your registration. If you have moved recently or know someone who has moved, it never hurts to verify voter registration in the new location.

You can find out if you are registered by clicking here. The deadline to register to vote in the November 6 General Election is October 9. Let’s change history this year and have 100 percent of all TRTA members registered to vote!

Register, Educate, Vote!

Stay tuned for next Tuesday’s edition of the Inside Line when we will discuss voting by mail. If you are 65 or older, you can vote right from the comfort of your home just by following the steps we will provide next week.

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24 Aug

Looking Back, TRTF Assisted Retirees in the Aftermath of Hurricane Harvey

The Texas Retired Teachers Foundation (TRTF) is a charitable organization dedicated to helping active and retired school employees. One year ago, Aug. 25, 2017, Hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf Coast of Texas and devastated thousands of lives. Among those lives was Diane Brady, a retired educator whose roof was ripped apart during the storm.

Brady is used to hurricane season. Each year she has a plan. She boards up the windows, stocks up on food and water and makes sure her insurance is up-to-date. But 2017 was different.

Harvey was a category 4 hurricane, and its powerful winds and torrential rains devastated Texas cities all across the shoreline. Brady lives in Ingleside, Texas. Ingleside is a small town located 17 miles south of Rockport, where the eye of the hurricane hit.

In its wake, Harvey created an unprecedented amount of property damage and flooding. Brady, a retired public schoolteacher was shocked by the amount of damage.

“I began to watch fences fall down. I began to watch cars get damaged,” Brady recalled. “Things just started to blow around.”

Brady experienced $18,000 in property damage from Harvey. Much of the damage was attributed to her roof. She had a 2002 roof that was ripped apart by the winds produced by the hurricane.

After the storm left, Brady applied for a variety of grants. Among those applications was one to the Texas Retired Teachers Foundation. TRTF, the charitable arm of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA), raised more than $100,000 to be paid to Harvey’s victims.

Brady received the highest grant possible from TRTF in this endeavor, $1,000, towards her roof. Brady was surprised and elated when she received the check.

“I was floored. I had something in my hand that was tangible. That was a help, and $1,000 is a help,” Brady said.

Brady was disappointed by the lack of assistance her community, and retired educators, received from the state after the natural disaster struck.

“Your soul hurts when you’re left. When the state promises us certain things, we take them at their word, and then money goes to industry and not the needs of people,” Brady said.

The city of Ingleside is still feeling the effects of Harvey’s devastation. The library is closed. A local hotel is still shut down. The convenience stores aren’t fully stocked. And some of the local workforce either moved away or had to be retrained.

“It’s still going on, and in our minds it’s going on.” Brady said.

Tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of Harvey, and many communities have never fully recovered. Show your support for retired educators impacted by Harvey by donating to TRTF’s Disaster Relief Fund today!

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16 Aug

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and State Senator Joan Huffman Pen Letters Requesting TRS Avoid Raising TRS-Care Premiums

The Lieutenant Governor of Texas, Dan Patrick, sent a letter to the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) Board of Trustees regarding the retiree health care program, TRS-Care. Patrick is asking the TRS Board not to raise retiree premiums for TRS-Care.

This letter was bolstered by a similar letter from Senator Joan Huffman (R – Houston), Chairman of the Senate State Affairs Committee. Senator Huffman’s committee is charged with oversight of matters related to TRS in the Texas Senate.

The board is considering raising the health care premiums for non-Medicare participants by $50 per month starting in Jan. 2019. The board is scheduled to meet Sept. 20, 2018.

Patrick’s letter says that “significant dollars” will need to be added to TRS-Care over the next several years.

“Because we are committed to our retired teachers, I am confident that the Senate will support additional funding for TRS-Care and I am hopeful the next Speaker of the House will follow our lead on this important issue,” Patrick wrote.

“Knowing plan experience has been positive and the Senate’s commitment to our retirees, I encourage the Board of Trustees not to raise healthcare premiums in 2019 for these retirees,” said Huffman. She also commended the TRS staff and leadership for their work to ensure better outcomes for the TRS-Care plan over the past year. TRS has been working with providers and members to ensure savings when possible and press for better health outcomes to help mitigate higher costs for medical treatment.

TRS-Care underwent significant changes during the last legislative session in 2017. Retiree premiums were raised, and benefits reduced. While the Legislature did add $212 million to TRS-Care via the special session, the health care program is projected to have another shortfall ranging between $400-600 million in 2019.

The letters released yesterday provide more insight about the projected shortfall, indicating it may be closer to $400 million instead of $600 million.

“TRS has started their preliminary work with state legislative officials to present their budget needs for the coming session,” said Tim Lee, TRTA Executive Director. In addition, the TRS Board will decide in September to either increase TRS-Care premiums or leave them unchanged.

“The letters sent to the TRS Board provide a strong statement that premiums should not increase in the coming plan year, and that Senate leaders will seek additional funding for the TRS-Care plan next session,” said Lee.

“TRTA leaders and members have expressed their concern for financial stability of the TRS-Care program. Knowing that a looming health care shortfall is expected next biennium, retirees have been looking for some additional commitment from elected leaders to do more for this vital health care program.”

“The statements today from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Chairman Huffman are welcome comments on a desperate situation for hundreds of thousands of retired school employees. Many retired school employees are in financial distress after their health care costs drastically increased this year. We appreciate the Lieutenant Governor and Chairman Huffman going on record as supporting additional funding for TRS-Care,” concluded Lee.

Patricia Macias, TRTA President said, “TRTA members agree that the cost burden for this shortfall can’t be absorbed by our state retired educators. We know the legislative session is a lengthy process, and there are many needs that will be presented to elected officials. TRTA members will rally to the cause of increasing base funding for TRS-Care, as well as calling for additional funding for the TRS pension fund.”

TRTA will pursue an aggressive legislative agenda protecting the TRS defined benefit plan, working to increase funding for the pension fund, and pushing for a benefit increase for retirees and for additional funding for TRS-Care. TRTA already is working on these issues, and our members are engaged and active now, well before session begins!

TRTA will keep its members informed about any possible changes to TRS-Care premiums for 2019. TRTA urges all members to watch the TRS Board of Trustees meeting in person or online on September 20. TRTA will send out a link for the live meeting broadcast once it is posted in mid-September.

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