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24 Nov
0

The Importance of Foundation Month

It’s Foundation Month! In my mind, I believe it’s been Foundation Month in the great state of Texas ever since the first school opened before the Republic of Texas was established. Teachers are the foundation for everything good that happens in our state. We know that teachers make things happen. Our 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. Fortunately, that does not hinder what we have and want to give to others. Your Texas Retired Teachers Foundation (TRTF) does what its name implies. We are the base, the underlying structure that supports our members.

Can you imagine our retirees needing help to pay heating bills or to purchase a heater to stay warm in the winter? How about retirees needing help to get dental work, glasses or hearing aids? What if you knew that there are retirees that need help paying medical bills for surgeries and cancer treatments? Would you believe that there are retirees that need help paying taxes so they can stay in their home? Would you help a retiree that had just finished cancer treatments, then came home to see the pipes in her bathroom leaking water for several days? The water caused mold to grow so that it was not safe to utilize the bathroom for months!

Well, all of these events and more have happened to some of our retirees. Because of your generosity, your Foundation has been able to help hundreds of retirees get their lives supported again. Since 2010, TRTF has made a commitment to help every retiree that qualifies. Unfortunately, these requests keep coming in.

We also have made a commitment to honor and help classroom teachers with Classroom Assistance Grants. We believe in perpetuating the teaching profession with Scholarships for future teachers. And finally, our Legacy Campaign helps make TRTA and the Foundation visible through support of the Texas Teacher of the Year (TOY) program, social media and videos, and attending professional teacher conventions throughout the year.

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 your donations, and the prayers and hope you send along too.

Sincerely,

Donate to TRTF

Jamie Larson

President, TRTF Board of Trustees

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19 Nov
0

Interim Charges Released for 84th Texas Legislature

This month, interim charges were released for the 84th Texas Legislature by Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus. As the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) mentioned in an Inside Line article last week, Texas public education retirees are on the minds of our state legislators right now, and much will be accomplished by committees during the interim that impacts your livelihood.

  • You may read the interim charges for all Senate committees in full here at this link. To view the Senate State Affairs charges, please click here.
  • You may read the interim charges for the House committees in full here at this link. To view the House Appropriations Committee, see pages 2-5. To view the House Pensions Committee, see page 47.

The purview of the TRS pension fund falls under the State Affairs Committee in the Senate. Though the charges were not as detailed regarding pensions as they are for the Texas House, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick included the following under the Monitoring Charge: “Changes made to the Employment Retirement System regarding member contributions and proposed reforms to the Teacher Retirement System of Texas.”

At this time, TRTA is not aware of any proposed changes to TRS and we do not know what this charge may entail. However, in past sessions, we have faced bills that attempt to turn the pension fund from a defined benefit to a defined contribution (401(k)-style) plan.

It is always important for our members to be aware of the potential for bills such as these to be filed each session. Beginning in 2017, the interim before session will be very telling as legislative committees meet to discuss the current status of the TRS pension fund, which TRTA reported last week has become actuarially unsound in the wake of a dramatic market downturn.

TRTA will continue to advocate during the interim to keep the pension fund a defined benefit, as it is the only real form of retirement security available to our hard-working public school personnel.

In the House, charges pertaining to the TRS pension fund, as well as TRS-Care, are under the scope of the House Appropriations and House Pensions committees.

The interim charges assigned by Speaker Straus to the House Appropriations Committee that are of particular interest to our members are:

5. Monitor the accumulation of available funds within the Texas Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF), particularly in light of the passage of HB 903 (84R). Determine the accuracy of prior ESF revenue predictions, the feasibility of long-term projections for the fund, and the effectiveness of proposed investments strategies utilized by the Comptroller of Public Accounts. Study the impact, if any, on the state’s credit rating when the ESF is utilized at various thresholds including usage for one-time expenses versus recurring costs. Examine potential limits in utilizing the ESF for specific uses, such as addressing unfunded liabilities or retiring state debt.

6. Monitor the implementation of HB 9 (84R) and study updated projections towards actuarial soundness of the Employees Retirement System. Examine issues and costs associated with granting cost-of-living adjustments or “13th Checks” to retired state employees and teachers.

7. Monitor the implementation of HB 2 (84R) as it pertains to the short-term funding provided to TRS-Care. Evaluate additional methods to address the health care needs of retired teachers in light of the current health insurance market, including the feasibility and costs associated with retired teachers not eligible for Medicare remaining on a school district’s health care plan until Medicare eligible.

Straus’ fifth charge addresses the possibility of utilizing the Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF), more commonly known as the Rainy Day Fund, to pay for unfunded liabilities or other state debts. The unfunded liabilities of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) are now at $33 billion. While there are other funds in the state that will fall into this category, the TRS pension fund will surely be a part of the conversation legislators have when discussing this issue.

Straus’ sixth charge primarily pertains to the Employees Retirement System (ERS), but also includes an overarching reference to providing permanent raises or supplemental payments (13th checks) to annuitants of state-managed pension funds.

As TRTA reported last week, the TRS pension fund‘s funding period is greater than 31 years. TRS annuitants cannot receive a cost-of-living adjustment unless the fund has a funding period of 31 years or less. In 2007, TRS annuitants received a one-time 13thcheck. While an attempt was made to provide TRS retirees with another 13th check in 2009, ultimately, the payment was not approved.

While the status of the pension fund’s solvency cannot be predicted at this time, this discussion opens the door for conversations with legislators about the possibility of a supplemental check for retirees in 2017.

Straus’ seventh charge directly addresses funding for the TRS-Care retiree health insurance program. As we have discussed numerous times over the past year, the long-term solvency of the program is in trouble. The current funding mechanism for TRS-Care is not sustainable, and drastic changes must be made in order for the program to continue.

This year, Senate Bill 1940 established a legislative study group that will meet during the interim to discuss solutions to the TRS-Care crisis. As of late last week, all members of this group have now been named: Senators Joan Huffman (R-Houston) – Co-Chair, Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), and Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls); and Representatives Dan Flynn (R-Canton) – Co-Chair, Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin), and Justin Rodriguez (D-San Antonio).

Progress on TRS-Care will happen in 2016 and it will happen quickly. TRTA needs your participation in every step of this process! Please stay tuned to the Inside Line for updated information about when the TRS-Care study group will meet and how you can participate.

The interim charges assigned by Speaker Straus to the House Pensions Committee that are of particular interest to our members are:

1. Study the impact that fluctuations in global financial markets have had on public pension funds. Analyze assumed rates of return on investments, structures among asset classes, long-term and shorter-term investment goals, and make appropriate recommendations to ensure the investment structure of public pension funds are meeting fiduciary responsibilities.

2. Examine Texas pension funds’ compliance with Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) Financial Reporting Statements 67 and 68, and identify the effect the reporting requirements are having on the state’s pension systems.

4. Examine the fiscal and policy impacts of structural reforms that would increase state public pension plans’ ability to achieve and maintain actuarial soundness. Evaluate the feasibility, costs, and benefits of utilizing one-time funding increases to reduce or eliminate unfunded liabilities.

5. Evaluate the investment performance benchmarks utilized by the state’s pension funds and the impact portfolio diversification and short- and long-term market assumptions have had on achieving expected investment returns. Analyze the fee structure and investment strategy for various investment classes to ensure the costs are reasonable and competitive versus other large public and private pension trust funds.

Charges one and five refer to the fiscal management and investment oversight of the pension fund. Charge two references how state pension funds match up with the requirements issued by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB). At this time, TRS has a funded ratio of 80.2 percent, which is considered healthy by GASB standards.

Charge four will address the unfunded liabilities of state pension systems, and like charge five for the Appropriations Committee, TRS will be an important topic of discussion for the Pensions Committee.

TRTA will continue to advocate that the TRS pension fund is following a distinct pathway to solvency, which will lead to 100 percent full funding and actuarial soundness. The Legislature’s support is vital to this plan. In 2013, Senate Bill 1458 established the means that will lead to the success of this goal. TRTA will continue to ask the state to maintain its contribution rate of 6.8 percent of active educator payroll.

TRTA members can stay tuned for additional updates about these charges and what they mean for your retirement benefits and the future of TRS.

Thank You

Protecting your retirement benefits is one of TRTA’s top priorities, and your participation makes all of difference! Be sure to stay tuned to our other digital mediums to stay informed on all the latest news and updates. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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17 Nov
0

TRTF’s Student Scholarships Paving the Way for Future Educators

The first scholarship Kelsey Faykus ever received was from the Texas Retired Teachers Foundation (TRTF). A first-year student at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Faykus is studying to become a high school biology teacher.

Last spring, TRTF provided Faykus with a $500 student scholarship to help her pursue her dreams. Faykus enters Southwestern University having been recruited by the school to play basketball.

Faykus was a team captain for her high school basketball team, the Thrall Tigers, and she used the opportunity to not only excel on the court, but also provide leadership to her teammates.

As a senior, Faykus mentored incoming freshmen basketball players, and when she started to see them grow it left her feeling “very, very accomplished.”

“I’ve had many girls come up and say how much of a difference I made just by being inclusive and being that leader,” Faykus said.

Faykus hopes to incorporate the skills she learned while playing basketball to her teaching style. Faykus describes her ideal teaching style as “vocal” and “interactive.”

When asked how she felt when she received the scholarship, Faykus replied that it was “amazing.”

“I cannot thank this Foundation enough, because it has made such a difference,” Faykus said.

Help support TRTF’s Student Scholarships by donating today. Last year, TRTF delivered 16 $500 student scholarships. Since the program’s inception in 2008, TRTF has given $45,000 to future educators!

Applications are now available for the 2016-2017 school year and may be downloaded from this link. Applicants must be a graduating senior or current college student and must be related to a member of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA). Applicants must be majoring in or plan to major in education and must attend a Texas college or university during the 2016-2017 school year.

Members, now is a great time to share this scholarship opportunity with your family members who are studying to become educators! Send an email to info@trta.org for more information.

Foundation Month is a time designated by the TRTA Board of Directors to raise awareness of the Foundation’s numerous charitable endeavors and raise funds to support them for the upcoming year.

TRTF has raised $35,000 thus far, but we know we can reach our $100,000 goal with your help! If just 2600 members donate $25, we will raise the funds needed to provide assistance the educators of the past, present and future!

Please help us accomplish this goal by donating today and spreading the word to your fellow retirees, friends and members of the community. You can also donate over the phone using a credit card by calling 1.800.880.1650, or mail your check to TRTF, 313 E. 12th Street Suite 220, Austin, TX 78701. All donations to TRTF are tax deductible.

Please also share this Inside Line and the Foundation’s videos, featuring recipients of our programs: “A Helping Hand,” Classroom Assistance Grants and Student Scholarships. You can view all videos on the TRTF website here.

If you would like to download a video and share it with the members of your local unit, please contact us!

Thank You!

Thank you for all that you do to support the Texas Retired Teachers Foundation and the many teachers, students and retirees whose lives are changed every day by your generosity!

TRTF has provided more than $207,000 to educators of the past, present, and future since 2008, and we plan to do so much more. We appreciate your generosity and support of the public education legacy.

Be sure to stay tuned to our other digital mediums to keep informed on all the latest news and updates. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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