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14 Apr
0

TRTA Hosts Successful 63rd Annual Convention

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) hosted its 63rd annual convention this week in Houston at the Westin Galleria. More than 1,000 members convened to enjoy fellowship, receive vital training from state counterparts and conduct the business of the association.

One of many highlights of the three-day event, Congressman Kevin Brady (R – The Woodlands) stopped by during the convention Opening Ceremonies to discuss his bill, H.R. 711, with attendees. Brady was greeted with the voices of 1,000 public education retirees singing happy birthday to him before he spoke about his years-long journey trying to repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). In a recent news article, Brady states that he is “cautiously optimistic” that the bill will pass this year. To learn more about the WEP and HR 711, visit this page.

The Texas Retired Teachers Foundation (TRTF), the charitable arm of TRTA, made several important announcements during the convention, including the introduction of the Lehr-Pritchard Endowment Fund. The fund is being created to establish long-term earnings that will be dedicated for TRTF’s most recognizable program, “A Helping Hand.” The grant program provides emergency assistance for Texas public education retirees in critical need. To date, more than $83,000 has been given to 87 retirees.


Jamie Larson (left), Tim Lee (center) and Ronnie Jung (right)
discuss the value of the Lehr-Pritchard Endowment Fund.

Members donated more than $10,000 during the Foundation’s annual luncheon to the endowment fund. The goal of the endowment fund is to reach $2 million in donations by December 31, 2019. TRTF is asking all members of TRTA to consider making a one-time donation of $30 to help the fund reach its $2,000,000 goal. Donations may be made online here or via snail mail by sending a check to TRTF, Attn: Endowment Fund, 313 E. 12th Street Suite 220, Austin, TX 78701.

TRTF also announced the creation of a new “Beginning Teacher” Scholarship, which will benefit recent college graduates pursuing a career in education in Texas by helping them pay for certification tests and supplies to set up their first classroom. This year’s Classroom Assistance Grants for public school teachers and Student Scholarships for graduating high school seniors were also announced. Read about the recipients here.

The TRTA House of Delegates, retirees representing the organization’s 257 affiliated local units, conducted association business on April 12. Members elected the following individuals to serve as officers of the state organization for the 2016-2018 term: Nancy Byler, President; Patricia Macias, First Vice-President; Leroy DeHaven, Second Vice-President; and Marcy Cann, Secretary/Treasurer. Members also voted positively on several bylaws amendments, including one that will allow the state Historian to become a voting member of the TRTA Board of Directors.

North San Antonio RTA member Carlos Ortiz was honored during the TRTA Awards Banquet with the prestigious E.L. Galyean Award for his many years of service. Mr. Ortiz has served in many capacities at the local unit, district and state level, including as a member of the TRTA State Legislative Committee and TRTF Board of Trustees.


Carlos Ortiz receives his E.L. Galyean Award
from TRTA President Fran Plemmons.

District 14 won awards for the highest percentage of membership gain, as well as highest total membership gain. Hamilton County ARTSP won the local unit award for the highest percentage of membership gain, and Abilene RTA won the local unit award for the highest total membership gain.

TRTA President Fran Plemmons was also honored with a special gift as she completes her term leading the organization. Under her leadership, TRTA’s membership has grown to over 80,000. Fran also created the President’s Diamond Award, which was presented for this first time during this year’s convention. The $1,500 award was presented to the Goliad County RSP for their advances in membership growth utilizing the TRTA Diamond Plus program.

About 800 attendees enjoyed a Legislative Luncheon, with the opportunity to hear from Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) Executive Director Brian Guthrie, and State Senators Joan Huffman and John Whitmire. The panel, led by TRTA Executive Director Tim Lee, enlightened the crowd about the problems plaguing the TRS-Care retiree health insurance program, potential solutions and state budget concerns.

TRTA appreciates the hard work of District 4 volunteers and the Leadership Training Committee members, all of whom worked non-stop to make the 63rd annual convention a great success!

Thank You

Convention is a great platform for learning and growing as an organization. For local unit committee chairmen and members, be sure to check out all of the convention resource guides now available on the TRTA website!

Next year’s convention will be held in Austin, and will include a TRTA Day at the Capitol event. As Senator John Whitmire stated numerous times during the legislative luncheon, our members must be engaged! Mark your calendars now for March 27-29, 2017, and plan to be the loudest, most unified voice at the Texas Capitol during the 84th Legislative Session.

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13 Apr
0

TRTA 63rd Annual Convention Starts This Weekend!

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) is finalizing plans for the 63rd Annual TRTA Convention to be held in Houston April 10-12, 2016. More than 1,000 retirees are registered for the event already, which is taking place at the Westin Galleria on 5060 West Alabama.

This year’s theme, “Hearts of Texas: TRTA Proud,” focuses on the strength and dedication of TRTA’s 257 local units and their homegrown, grassroots advocacy. Late registration for the Convention is open online, and will be available onsite beginning at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, April 10. To view the full convention schedule, please click here.

In addition to conducting the business of the association, such as officer elections and bylaws amendment considerations, members will attend a number of training and educational sessions. A complete list of sessions, their descriptions and a schedule are available on our website here.

Legislation is always a key focus of our annual conventions, and despite 2016 being an interim year when the Legislature is not convening, our members are ready to address the looming $1.5 billion shortfall expected for the TRS-Care health insurance program in 2017. During the Legislative Luncheon being held on April 12, members will hear from TRS Executive Director Brian Guthrie and area Senators Joan Huffman and John Whitmire about potential solutions to the TRS-Care shortfall in 2017.

Although the Legislative Luncheon is sold out already, the panel discussion will be broadcast live in the Galleria Ballroom on Level 3. All convention attendees will have the opportunity to hear this important information, which begins at 12:15 p.m. on April 12.

Members will also have the chance to hear from Texas Congressman Kevin Brady (R-The Woodlands) during Opening Ceremonies on Monday, April 11. Brady will discuss progress on The Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act (HR 711). HR 711 is a bill that proposes to replace the current Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) with a newer, fairer formula. To learn more about the WEP and HR 711, visit this page.

Once again, TRTA will have a Diamond Plus booth, found in the exhibit hall in the same area on Level 4 where registration will occur. Diamond Plus, a value-added program for members of TRTA, offers a permanent membership card, personalized attention and hassle-free membership renewals.

Members who pay their dues via payroll deduction or bank draft already are participants in Diamond Plus. Attendees who renew their dues for the 2016-2017 year via one of these methods can join Diamond Plus while at Convention by visiting the Diamond Plus booth. All current and new Diamond Plus participants attending Convention will also be entered in a prize drawing, with winners announced after Convention.

For any questions about your registration or delegate certification, please contact our Membership Department at 1.800.880.1650 or email us at membership@trta.org. We look forward to seeing you in Houston soon! Please be sure to share our press release about Convention with your fellow retirees and media outlets.

Thank You

Convention is sure to provide TRTA a platform for learning and growing as an organization. We look forward to seeing you in Houston.

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30 Mar
0

TRS-Care Joint Committee Meets as TRTA Hosts Rally at Capitol

“I’m just chock-full of good news today,” joked Teacher Retirement System (TRS) Executive Director Brian Guthrie after eliciting several prolonged sighs from members of the TRS-Care Joint Committee.

The TRS-Care Joint Committee is a sub-committee of the Texas Legislature charged with studying the TRS-Care health insurance program. The committee is comprised of three Senators and three Representatives, who heard testimony for three hours concerning TRS-Care’s financial instability.

The health care program will face a funding shortfall of $1.6 billion by the start of the 2018-19 fiscal year according to Guthrie. Guthrie and the legislators reviewed options to solve this funding crisis. The funding shortfall has been caused by a discrepancy between the amount of money being put into the program, which is tied to active teacher payroll, and rising health care costs.


TRTA members testified about the importance
of TRS-Care to the committee.

To read the TRS presentation, click here. To re-watch the meeting, click here.

More than 200 members of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) were present during the meeting, which was standing room only and required an overflow room to be provided.

As TRTA members rallied before the meeting, four legislators came to thank the educators for their public service. Representatives Justin Rodriguez (D-San Antonio), Dan Flynn (R-Canton), Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin) and Phil Stephenson (R-Wharton) all came to greet the TRTA gathering, and their kind, inspirational words provided an uplifting moment during a day full of long sighs and headshakes.

During the meeting, each legislator was divided on how to approach the conversation of solving the TRS-Care crisis. Sen. Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls) began the meeting by providing a statement of determination, but halfway through conceded that solving the crisis would require everyone to contribute.

Stephenson however was adamant that retirees should not have to have any cost increases or benefit reductions.

“It should be the burden of the actives and the state,” Stephenson said.

Tim Lee, TRTA’s Executive Director, was the first to provide public testimony. Lee outlined the issues surrounding the program, including the prolonged issue of the program being a “pay-as-you-go strategy.” This current strategy required the state to provide $768 million to keep the program solvent through the current biennium. Though Guthrie would later go on to state that this figure might be short, as the program is only projected to have $24 million in it by Aug. 2017.

“There is no silver bullet or one thing that we can blame,” said Lee. “The bottom line is this: we need more revenue to keep this program solvent.”

Lee noted that the current pay-as-you-go method has almost been as expensive as a pre-funded method. Pre-funding TRS-Care is the best option for its long-term solvency, and it is the method that would be most fair to TRTA members. However, pre-funding is the most expensive option for the Legislature, as it would cost the state a total of $2.7 billion during the 2018-19 biennium and $2.8 billion during the 2020-21 biennium.

Along with TRTA, several other associations testified to the committee. Among those testifying were the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA), the Association of Texas Professional Educators (ATPE), the Texas American Federation of Teachers (Texas AFT), the Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA) and the Texas Classroom Teachers Association (TCTA). Many associations stated that pre-funding the plan was the best solution.

Guthrie ended his testimony by providing his take on the future of TRS-Care.

“Whatever you decide on is putting a Band-Aid on a fundamentally flawed system,” said Guthrie. “Come up with a new model of providing health care.”

Thank You

Thank you for your membership to TRTA. We will continue to follow the TRS-Care Joint Committee’s progress, and provide you many more opportunities to get involved. We truly appreciate the members who were able to make it to the rally and the legislators who attended the rally.

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