25 Sep

Countdown to the General Election: A Simple Plan

The November 6 mid-term General Election is shaping up with many good candidates and considerable political fodder for marketing gurus. When you hear the next amazing fact that sounds too good to be true or an out-of-context statement excoriating a political opponent, remember it is the job of marketing experts to make their candidate appear superhuman and their opponent seem weak. Do not let political ads goad you into voting based solely on an emotional reaction!

The problem with all the marketing glam and sham is that it works! It’s easy to get caught up in the spectator sport of politics and take sides based on how we feel instead of what will help us achieve our priorities. It’s fun to watch the commercials, but it’s a show with the purpose of making viewers act on instinct instead of reason.

Here is a simple plan to remind TRTA members why we encourage you to vote based on facts and what we stand for as educators. Use these tips to reflect on your emotions after seeing the same commercial for the 50th time or receiving yet another mud-slinging flyer in the mail.

Answer these five grounding questions about voting:

Why? It is simple. As public servants, our livelihood (monthly annuities, health care, and Social Security) and the programs young Texans need to carry us into the future are determined by elected officials. Our unified voice is our strongest asset, helping us elect leaders who care about our priorities and make them their priorities.

What? This non-presidential mid-term election features a U.S Senate race, all U.S congressional seats, Texas statewide leaders (Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Comptroller, Agriculture Commissioner, and Land Commissioner), half the Texas State Senate and all Texas State House Representatives. You must be registered to vote! CLICK HERE TO REGISTER. TRTA leaders are pushing for 100 percent voter registration for the TRTA membership. Just do it!

When? Voter registration ends on October 9. Today is National Voter Registration Day. Early voting for the General Election begins on October 22 and continues through November 2. Election day is November 6. Mail-in ballots can be requested through October 26. Request them now and send them in when early voting begins to ensure your ballot arrives on time.

How? Voter turnout is determined by motivation to act. Motivation can stem from fear and anger, which is what political consultants want; but motivation can be strategic and based on priorities, such as our economic future. Voters decide who wins, and elected officials work for us–not the other way around! However, democracy is not a spectator sport! Please plan to vote early and then persuade every educator you know to vote in this election, particularly active educators.

Who? You decide who to vote for and your vote is private, so no one will know unless you tell them.  TRTA does not endorse candidates or political parties, but we do encourage you to consider our priorities and who you think best supports public education overall. We encourage you to talk to TRTA local unit legislative committee chairs and people you trust who have the same priorities as you to get the facts you need. You can also go to the following websites to research candidates’ stances on education and retiree issues.

The Texas Tribune election app

These non-partisan sources contain personalized ballots, links to the candidate websites, candidate surveys, voting records, a list of candidates who pledge to stand by education principles, and more. Talk to your friends, attend campaign forums, or contact the candidates to glean more information.

We hope this simple list helps you consider what’s at stake before you vote. There are only fourteen days until the voter registration deadline. Keep up the good work, stay focused, and stay tuned to the Inside Line as we near election day.

Next Tuesday, we will feature a special detailed message about TRTA’s priorities from the state legislative committee.

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20 Sep

Breaking: TRS Makes No Changes to TRS-Care Benefits

The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) Board of Trustees is holding meetings today and tomorrow. The board was considering increasing premiums to non-Medicare retirees by $50 per month.

However, TRS Executive Director Brian Guthrie has stated that the staff recommendation is to not increase these monthly premiums. Since the benefits committee didn’t act on the proposal to increase premiums, the board won’t increase or change the benefits structure.

Guthrie updated the Benefits Committee on the improved status of TRS-Care. He said that the fund is facing a $238 million budget shortfall. This figure is on the smaller side of previously projected ranges, which were between $400-$600 million.

As a result of the lower figure, and letters from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Sen. Joan Huffman (R – Houston), as well as support from Sen. Jane Nelson (R – Flower Mound), Guthrie stated that the perceived legislative intent was to help fill the shortfall during the upcoming legislative session.

“Now that the projections are significantly better this year than they were last year… we received feedback that the legislative intent has changed,” Guthrie said. “We trust the legislative process.”

Guthrie attributed the improved number to contract negotiations. TRS-Care also received additional federal reimbursements this year. TRS released the following statement on the issue:

“While working on plan year 2019 contract negotiations with Humana, the current third-party administrator of TRS-Care Medicare Advantage; TRS got an improved rate from Humana – TRS’ risk group resulted in enhanced revenue from CMS to Humana, thus allowing TRS to reduce the rate it pays Humana.”

If the Legislature doesn’t make any changes to TRS-Care funding, it’s likely that TRS will increase premiums, or make other benefit changes, during a board meeting following the legislative session.

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) will continue to keep its members informed about the nature of the TRS-Care budget shortfall. Stay tuned to the Inside Line for continued updates on this issue.

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18 Sep

Countdown to the General Election – Voting is Good for You!

Texas Educators Vote recently posted a message about the health benefits of civic engagement. It included this recent TIME magazine article about a study that linked registering to vote, voting, and civic engagement to healthier lifestyles for young adults.

This is yet another great reason to help high school students get registered to vote! Voting may also add a couple of years to your life, as does volunteering by encouraging young voters to get to the polls.

TRTA Local Units are Getting with the Program

Last week, the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) asked readers to send some examples of the work our local units and districts are doing to encourage voter registration among TRTA members. Here are just two of the many projects we know are happening statewide to encourage educators to get involved in this election.

District 4 used the information from the Inside Line and customized it for their members, telling them where they can request registration cards and mail-in ballots. District 4 cited voter registration statistics for their region and set a challenge of 100 percent registration of TRTA members by October 9. Check out District 4’s email by clicking here!

The Eastern Cass County unit put together a brochure with voter statistics, resources and information about why the retired educator vote is critical in this election. They included the strength of the education vote and election dates. View the brochure by clicking here.

Many great activities are happening across the state and we know many TRTA members are working hard to get out the voting message to educators everywhere in Texas. Feel free to share your efforts with us and keep up the good work.

National Voter Registration Day

National Voter Registration Day is next Tuesday, September 25! The Texas League of Women Voters is leading the way. The League does not mess around when they say they are “Making Democracy Work in Texas!”

Here is a quote from the League’s website that explains what this day is all about:

  • “On Tuesday, September 25, 2018, volunteers and organizations from all over the country will ‘hit the streets’ in a single day of coordinated field, technology and media efforts. National Voter Registration Day seeks to create broad awareness of voter registration opportunities to reach tens of thousands of voters who may not register otherwise.”

You can sign up here to volunteer and find out more about what they are doing.

Here are some additional links from the site that facilitate voter education and registration:

At non-profit, non-partisan websites like, it takes just two minutes to request that a registration card be sent to your mailbox. You don’t even need a printer! If you provide your information, a card that is pre-filled with your name and address and a stamped envelope is mailed to you. Just sign it and drop it in the mail!

Thanks to the many TRTA members for all the work you are doing across the state. We hope you find these resources helpful and we appreciate any examples from TRTA local units that are shared with us.

We are 22 days away from the voter registration deadline! Keep up the good work, and let’s not let District 4 get all the glory. Let’s see if we can get 100 percent of all TRTA members in every district registered to vote for the November 6 General Election.

Next week, TRTA will discuss resources that allow you to research.

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