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30 Nov
0

TRTF Making A Difference: Teacher Grants In Action

Allen Hubbard lives for the excitement of the classroom. When students walk through the door, Hubbard’s infectious energy sparks the curiosity of his students’ budding minds.

As a physics teacher at Akins High School in Austin, Texas, Hubbard manages the thin line between education and frenzy as he works to instill his passion into the hearts of his students.

Hubbard has been teaching for 10 years, and he continues to “revamp” his teaching style.

“I’m following a type of teaching physics called modeling,” Hubbard said. “Essentially, it’s developing a model in the kid’s brain of what the physics is.”

His latest venture comes with the help of three newly purchased high-speed digital cameras.

The cameras allow students to track the motion of objects in the physics class. Students utilize the camera’s precision to make scientific inquiries into the nature of motion, speed and velocity. Afterwards, the students upload the footage to classroom computers and track the experiments’ results.

Hubbard was able to purchase the cameras through a $500 grant provided by the Texas Retired Teachers Foundation (TRTF). His grant is a part of the Classroom Assistance Grants program, and it was one of 15 allocated by TRTF in 2016.

One of Hubbard’s students, Peter Kwiatkowski, has found the camera’s precision useful. Previously, the students performed acceleration experiments by hand, and the method resulted in a great deal of human error. But with the cameras, students are able to closely define the physics.

“It’s super hard to do it exactly if you don’t use the camera,” Kwiatkowski said. “It’s still not going to be perfect… but it’s going to be as close as possible.”

Many students come to visit Hubbard after class. They discuss assignments and aspirations with him, and come seeking advice. Hubbard greets them with enthusiasm, and he hopes to see many of them continue to succeed despite the financial constraints placed on schools.

For Hubbard, the $500 provided an axis of freedom rarely given to teachers.

“My school will support me with equipment sometimes every other year,” Hubbard said. “It’s a great amount of money, and even better that I get to pick what to spend it on, so I feel like I can make it go a long way.”

Donate Today

You can help support projects like Allen Hubbard’s by donating to TRTF. Classroom teachers are in great need of financial assistance, and your donation will go towards improving the quality of education performed in Texas classrooms.

You can donate here. You may also call and donate over the phone with a credit card at 1.800.880.1650 (please ask for Dawn).

The third quarter issue of The VOICE also featured a special article about the Foundation, along with TRTF’s annual appeal letter and donation card. You can mail in your donation using the pre-paid envelope included with your issue.

You can also learn more about past grant recipients here.

Thank You

Thank you for your support of TRTF during Foundation Month. TRTF would not be able to provide its programs without your generous donations. Even as Foundation Month comes to a close, there are still many needs to be met.

We are continuing to grow our Lehr-Pritchard Endowment Fund, which seeks to secure the future of the “A Helping Hand” program. You can learn more about the endowment fund here.

There are nearly 80,000 members of TRTA. If we all give a little, we could do a lot! Foundation Month is your opportunity to make a difference for a colleague that could use help, create an opportunity for classroom teachers and students, or help open the door for a new teacher brimming with youthful enthusiasm to teach young minds.

Be sure to like TRTA on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. And subscribe to our YouTube channel!

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22 Nov
0

Happy Thanksgiving from TRTA and TRTF!

Dear TRTA Members and Supporters,

This is the time of year to reflect and be appreciative of those who have been a special part of our lives!

The TRTA Board of Directors and the Texas Retired Teachers Foundation (TRTF) Board of Trustees are so very thankful for the time you spend volunteering for the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) and the donations you have made to help fund TRTF’s many charitable programs.

Your work and endeavors have made this organization successful, and you give a voice to retired educators as well as active educators still working in the school systems. You help us provide assistance to retired educators in need, current classroom teachers and tomorrow’s educators!

Educators are the foundation for everything good that happens in our state. Educators make things happen. Your patience, love, knowledge, dedication and generous spirit make Texas great!

However, we also know that for all the good we do, the appreciation and salary is not commensurate. The future holds many questions about health insurance for our retirees, and concerns about making ends meet.

Fortunately, that does not hinder what we have and want to give to others. The Texas Retired Teachers Foundation does what its name implies. We are the base, the underlying structure that supports our members.

How the Foundation Can Help

If you or a retiree you know is in need of financial assistance this holiday season, please email the Foundation’s “A Helping Hand” program at help@trtf.org. TRTF has assisted many retirees with home repairs, dental work, hearing aids, medical bills, space heaters and much more!

If you know of a classroom teacher who is hoping to fund a great project for his or her students and is wondering where to find the money to accomplish this goal, have them apply for one of our fifteen available Classroom Assistance Grants (download application here).

If you have a grandchild or other family member who is about to graduate from college, and plans to teach for the very first time in the fall of 2017, let them know about our new Beginning Teacher Scholarship program. We may be able to assist them in paying for certification tests or supplies for their first classroom. Download the application here.

Donate Today

If you believe in the legacy of public education in Texas, and want to show your support through a tax-deductible donation to any of our Foundation’s amazing programs, you may donate online today! You may also call and donate over the phone with a credit card at 1.800.880.1650 (please ask for Dawn).

The third quarter issue of The VOICE also featured a special article about the Foundation, along with TRTF’s annual appeal letter and donation card. You can mail in your donation using the pre-paid envelope included with your issue.

There are nearly 80,000 members of TRTA. If we all give a little, we could do a lot!  Foundation Month is your opportunity to make a difference for a colleague that could use help, create an opportunity for classroom teachers and students, or help open the door for a new teacher brimming with youthful enthusiasm to teach young minds.

Thank you for the opportunity you have given all of us to serve as your TRTA representatives. We are all deeply grateful to our members for everything that they do to support this great organization.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Tim Lee

Executive Director
Texas Retired Teachers Association

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18 Nov
0

TRTA Member Alert: Legislative Study Group Releases Health Insurance Report, Retirees to Bear Burden of Growing TRS-Care Costs

Members! Click here to send an email to your Senator and Representative!

Special Comment from Tim Lee, TRTA Executive Director: 

Dear TRTA members, friends and supporters,

The information you will read below is TRTA’s first analysis of a Texas legislative report that is nearly seventeen months in the making. The information is bleak. The report suggests drastic, painful cuts to TRS-Care. The Texas Legislature will convene in January 2017, and this report will be the starting point for a discussion on how to address the TRS-Care funding shortfall.

TRTA is prepared to champion your interests on this vital health care program and what may come for TRS-Care in the future. It is important for every TRTA member to know, though, that your current TRS-Care health insurance benefits are secure. Your TRS-Care plan is funded on a two-year budget cycle, and the work we did last legislative session protects your plan today and through 2017.

While we have experienced some modifications to the TRS-Care plan that were implemented this past summer, your TRS-Care plan is one that you can count on and that is funded currently.

We say this because what you will read below is, unfortunately, not very encouraging. From time to time, TRTA members have questioned if they should even remain in TRS-Care. Someone may even read the report and consider leaving TRS-Care before the legislative session begins. This would be a rash decision and one that may have irrevocable consequences!

A decision to leave now is almost certainly the wrong decision to make. If you leave TRS-Care, the options available to return are extremely limited. TRTA recommends speaking to a TRS counselor on any decisions you may make about your retirement benefits.

We know the information in this legislative report is very concerning, even a little scary. TRTA has many friends in the Legislature, and we still have time to come together and work to find more reasonable solutions for TRS-Care.

Let’s all come together and do our best to educate our legislators about the need to improve funding for TRS-Care! Our response will not be measured by fear and misinformation, but by leadership, courage and the belief that when we come together and work in good faith, better solutions will be the outcome.

TRTA will keep you informed about every step taken to improve TRS-Care. Stay informed on this important issue by reading the Inside Line or following our social media.

I believe we can send a strong message to the Legislature when TRTA increases its membership from 80,000 to 100,000 or more! Let’s rally around the cause of protecting our health care program and be ready to fight for affordable health care for all retirees.

Sincerely,

Tim Lee, Executive Director, Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA)

TRTA Analysis of Interim Study Group Report

Members! Click here to send an email to your Senator and Representative!

The legislative study group tasked with analyzing TRS-Care, the health insurance program provided by Texas for retired teachers, released its highly anticipated report and recommendations for the program on November 17. Members can read the full text of the report by clicking here.

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) appreciates the work of the members of the interim committee, as well as their diligence in releasing the report prior to January’s 85th Legislative Session.

TRTA has stated for years that TRS-Care and TRS-ActiveCare are in trouble, and this report confirms our belief. The report says “continuing to fund (TRS-Care) on a biennial basis is no longer feasible because costs continue to rise at an alarming rate.”

TRTA retirees are extremely grateful for the health care program provided by the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS). The partnership between all involved parties is what has made this important benefit available for retirees. Unfortunately, this report’s primary recommendation is to put the burden of change, the impending $1.3 to $1.5 billion budget shortfall, on retirees.

While this conclusion is not a surprising one, it is disappointing. The two solutions presented in the study as potential options avoid the “share the pain” approach that has been utilized in the past to resolve funding deficiencies with the program, and ultimately shifts all of the burgeoning costs onto the backs of our public education retirees. Neither option would put more revenue into the program from any contributing group (the state, school districts, active employees) other than retirees. The report’s recommendations do not address the inadequacy of TRS-Care’s current funding mechanism.

In TRTA’s opinion, the options presented are not “fiscally responsible solutions to ensure long-term sustainability” as dictated by Senate Bill 1940 when the committee was established. Rather, the solutions presented would eliminate the TRS-Care program as we know it today!

The proposed plans would shift an additional $600 million in health costs for retirees in 2017. These additional costs would likely increase each year thereafter.

The report provides two options for the Legislature to consider: provide a $400 monthly stipend to non-Medicare eligible retirees to purchase health insurance, or create a high-deductible plan for non-Medicare eligible retirees. Each option would require all Medicare eligible participants, retirees who are 65 and older, to go into Medicare Advantage or choose another plan outside of TRS-Care.

OPTION 1: Health Reimbursement Account & Medicare Advantage Plan (“HRA Plan”)

Non-Medicare participants: Receive $400 per month in a Health Reimbursement Account (HRA). These participants would purchase health care via the federal exchange and would be prohibited from using TRS-Care plans until Medicare eligible.

Non-Medicare participant dependents: Unable to use TRS-Care plans until the retiree becomes Medicare eligible.

Medicare-eligible participants: Must use TRS-Care Medicare Advantage plus Medicare Part D for prescriptions, the only plan available through TRS, or utilize an option outside of TRS-Care.

Non-Medicare eligible dependents of Medicare eligible retirees: Eligible to enroll in the TRS-Care 2 plan.

Proposed effective date: January 1, 2018

Concerns:

  • This option assumes that the health care exchange will still be available in January 2018, an issue TRTA has concerns about.
  • A retiree-only HRA is not subject to the Affordable Care Act’s insurance market reform rules.
  • Though many TRS retirees who are Medicare eligible enjoy the Medicare Advantage plan, retirees in rural areas struggle with having adequate access to providers.
  • It is unclear from the report whether or not Medicare Part B only participants will be required to purchase Medicare Part A out-of-pocket, which would be an additional cost of approximately $400 per month.
  • The out-of-network maximums are not limited by federal law, meaning the maximums would be set by the TRS Board.

OPTION 2: High Deductible & Medicare Advantage Plan (“HD Plan”)

Non-Medicare participants: Eligible to enroll in a high deductible health care plan similar to TRS-Care 1. The plan would feature a $4,000 in-network deductible.

Non-Medicare participant dependents: Eligible to enroll in a high deductible health care plan similar to TRS-Care 1. The plan would feature a $4,000 in-network deductible.

Medicare-eligible participants: Must use TRS-Care Medicare Advantage plus Medicare Part D for prescriptions, the only plan available through TRS, or utilize an option outside of TRS-Care

Non-Medicare eligible dependents of Medicare eligible retirees: Eligible to enroll in the TRS-Care HD plan

Proposed effective date: January 1, 2018

Concerns:

  • A $4000 in-network deductible would be very difficult for retirees to afford, in addition to the maximum out-of-pocket limits.
  • Though many TRS retirees who are Medicare eligible enjoy the Medicare Advantage plan, retirees in rural areas struggle with having adequate access to providers.
  • It is unclear from the report whether or not Medicare Part B only participants will be required to purchase Medicare Part A out-of-pocket, which would be an additional cost of approximately $400 per month.
  • The out-of-network maximums are not limited by federal law, meaning the maximums would be set by the TRS Board.

IF NOTHING CHANGES AND RETIREES PAY FULL COST OF SHORTFALL

Below is the committee’s prediction of FY 2018 premium costs for retirees assuming no plan design changes and no increase in contributions from the state, school districts, or active school personnel. These amounts would increase year over year as medical costs continue to rise.

The Bottom Line

There is no silver bullet to resolve this issue. Our work with the Legislature in providing quality, affordable health insurance for our public education retirees is far from over.

Members, know this: while the options presented by the study group may cause you concern and are far from the solutions TRTA wanted to see, inevitably, TRS-Care faces a $1.3 to $1.5 billion shortfall by the end of the next biennium.

These may not be the options that pass, but drastic measures must be taken during the 85th Legislative Session! If the Legislature does nothing at all, retiree premiums would have to cover the entire $1.3 to $1.5 billion shortfall. This also means increased copayments, deductibles, and out-of-pocket expenses for all plan levels.

We have many friends in the Texas Legislature. We must work hard, together, with them, with a strong, unified voice to find the best solutions for your health care!

Thank You

Thank you for your membership to TRTA. We will continue to follow the progress on TRS-Care. TRTA will provide you many more opportunities to get involved as we protect your hard earned retirement benefits!

If you are not yet a member, we need you to help us protect your retirement security. Please join TRTA today!

Be sure to like us on Facebookfollow us on Twitter and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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