Blog

06 Jul
0

This Week at TRTA!

Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) leaders and staff are busy this week as we host the District Presidents Leadership Training Conference (DPLTC). The three day event will be held at the Airport Hilton Hotel in Austin July 7-9.

All of TRTA’s twenty district presidents will be in town to receive training from the officers of the TRTA Board of Directors. They will learn more about TRTA’s goals for the interim and how to best communicate them to local unit presidents throughout the state.

District presidents will also elect the officers of the District Presidents Council this week. The council members will begin serving on the TRTA Board of Directors immediately.

On Wednesday, July 8, district presidents will tour the TRTA state office and meet with staff members to learn more about membership processing and communications. Stay tuned to our Facebook page for more updates about DPLTC as they happen!

The VOICE Will Arrive Soon!

TRTA’s quarterly news bulletin, The VOICE, will arrive in members’ mailboxes as early as this week! To get a sneak peek, click here!

Please pay special attention to page three, where you can find a full-page fact sheet about HR 711, the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act, which repeals the current Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP).

The WEP is an unfair federal law preventing retired educators from receiving their earned Social Security (SS) benefits. The WEP, which took effect in 1983, provides a means of eliminating the “windfall” of SS benefits received by beneficiaries who also receive a pension based on work not covered by SS. Many educators are blindsided by this news, and it can have a significant impact on their financial security.

Kevin Brady (R – The Woodlands) introduced HR 711 into Congress earlier this year, but the bill is stuck in the House Ways and Means committee. The bill needs more cosponsors from other states to advance.

HR 711 proposes to reduce the WEP for current and future retirees without impacting the SS trust fund. If passed, HR 711 could increase the lifetime SS benefits of retired teachers by between $20,000 and $32,400.

On average, TRTA members report the WEP reduces their monthly income by $400. HR 711 will reduce the WEP for current retirees by as much as 33 percent. Future retirees will see the WEP’s impact reduced by as much as 50 percent.

Many of the bill’s cosponsors are from Texas, and that shows a great dedication from our members to get traction for this bill. However, we must now expand our reach to Congressmen across the U.S.

Congress is still working in JulyLet’s tell our national leaders we need HR 711 passed now

Please contact your friends, family and colleagues in other states, and ask them to contact their Congressmen and tell them to support HR 711! Feel free to email them a link to page three of The VOICE to provide them with more information.

Thank You

Your support helped us receive $768 million towards TRS-Care during the 84th Texas Legislative Session, but there is still more work to be done. Repealing the WEP is TRTA’s #1 priority, and your help can make all of the difference. 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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26 Jun
0

TRTA Interim Update: Full Steam Ahead!

The regular session of the 84th Texas Legislature has ended well for members of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA). Governor Greg Abbott recently signed House Bill 2 into law, which provides $768 million to fill the TRS-Care funding shortfall.

The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) voted earlier this month not to raise premiums on TRS-Care, and TRTA’s expectation is that TRS-Care premiums will remain the same for the upcoming biennium.

Legislative session may be over, but TRTA is busier than ever and gearing up for a strong second half to 2015!

As we look towards the work we must do for the interim, TRTA is ready to address the long-term solvency issues facing the health care program. Members from both the Texas Senate and House will serve on a committee to study options to maintain TRS-Care, and the bulk of their work will be done between now and January 2017.

This committee was established by another bill that was signed into law, Senate Bill 1940. The members of that committee have not yet been appointed. TRTA will continue monitoring the progress of the committee and will report back with new information soon.

TRTA has hosted numerous committee meetings at our state offices throughout June, and will host our District Presidents Leadership Training Conference starting on July 7. Additionally, we have finished production on the latest edition of The VOICE, which will start appearing in your mailboxes within the next couple of weeks.

Our greatest work, however, is pushing for the repeal of the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). We need your help as we make the repeal of the WEP a top priority in the 114th Congress!

The WEP is an unfair federal law preventing retired educators from receiving their earned Social Security (SS) benefits. The WEP, which took effect in 1983, provides a means of eliminating the “windfall” of SS benefits received by beneficiaries who also receive a pension based on work not covered by SS. Many educators are blindsided by this news, and it can have a significant impact on their financial security.

Click on the image below to view our exclusive WEP video, featuring Congressman Kevin Brady!

Kevin Brady (R – The Woodlands) introduced HR 711 into Congress earlier this year, but the bill is stuck in the House Ways and Means committee. The bill needs more cosponsors from other states to advance.

HR 711 proposes to reduce the WEP for current and future retirees without impacting the SS trust fund. If passed, HR 711 could increase the lifetime SS benefits of retired teachers by between $20,000 and $32,400.

Many of the bill’s cosponsors are from Texas, and that shows a great dedication from our members to get traction for this bill. However, we must now expand our reach to Congressmen across the U.S. Please contact your friends, family and colleagues in other states, and ask them to contact their Congressmen and tell them to support HR 711!

On average, TRTA members report the WEP reduces their monthly income by $400. HR 711 will reduce the WEP for current retirees by as much as 33 percent. Future retirees will see the WEP’s impact reduced by as much as 50 percent.

Thank You

Your support helped us receive $768 million towards TRS-Care during the 84th Texas Legislative Session, but there is still more work to be done. Repealing the WEP is TRTA’s #1 priority, and your help can make all of the difference. 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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24 Jun
0

Thanking Mike Lehr and Tom Pritchard

Many of our members may know and remember two great leaders in both the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) and Texas Retired Teachers Foundation (TRTF): Mike Lehr and Tom Pritchard. Both gentlemen have served in multiple capacities for both organizations, guiding not only legislative activity, but also charitable giving and promoting the legacy of public education in Texas.

Recently, Mike Lehr and Tom Pritchard have reached the end of their terms serving on Foundation’s Board of Trustees. June 30 marks their last day of official business on the board.

Lehr served as TRTA’s Executive Director from 1994 to 2003. Lehr spearheaded the development and lobbying of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) Catch-Up Plan, which provided benefit increases for retired public educators for four consecutive legislative sessions. In 1995, the Texas Legislature approved a $1.6 billion increase for Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) annuitants.

After working for 38 years in public education, Lehr retired and became a TRTA member. Less than a year after starting his position on the Legislative Committee, Lehr became the chairman of the committee, and worked to solve the problem of retired educators receiving poverty-level annuity checks.

“There was a great challenge there that we needed to get something accomplished,” Lehr said.

Lehr worked with his Legislative Committee and TRS to develop the CPI Catch-Up, which proposed to dramatically increase the annuity payments owed to retired educators. Lehr used his previous work experience with the Austin Independent School District and the Texas Legislature to convince the Speaker of the House, Gib Lewis, and the Lieutenant Governor, Bob Bullock, to support the plan.

“That was quite a feat that we were able to pass the CPI Catch-Up,” Lehr said.

In 1994, Lehr was promoted to the position of TRTA Executive Director. La Vonne Rogers, who worked as the officer manager for TRTA during Lehr’s tenure as Executive Director, considers the CPI Catch-Up a miracle.

“People who had retired many years ago were living on practically nothing,” Rogers said. “All of a sudden the fund was fully funded, and we had lots of cooperation from the Legislature, because the people that were working with Mike wanted to see it happen.”

Lehr stepped down as TRTA’s Executive Director in 2003, and Tim Lee soon after filled the association’s vital role. Lehr began his tenure as a board member of TRTF in 2001, and he received the E.L. Galyean Service Award, TRTA’s highest honor, in 2002.

Tom Pritchard joined TRTA in 1988. Pritchard became the President of the Parker County RTA, and served in that capacity for three years. He went on to become the President of District 10, and he served as the TRTA State President from 2002-2004. Pritchard began his service to the Foundation board in 2001.

“I think that was one of the best decisions that I ever made,” Pritchard said. “(It) has really been a joy to be associated with that Foundation and all the work that we have accomplished with it.”

During Pritchard’s time as TRTA President, the organization opened the doors to its state offices right next to the Texas Capitol. The state office building’s purchase and construction was accomplished through many years of donations to TRTF, but finally came to fruition under Pritchard’s watch.

Pritchard would often make the six-hour round-trip commute from his home in Brock, Texas to TRTA’s state offices in Austin. “B” Zimmer, TRTA’s office assistant since 1981, remembers Pritchard’s enduring dedication and commitment fondly.

“No matter what they ask of him or if he sees something that needs to be done, he’s always (willing to) drive in and drive home. That’s a long ways in a day,” she said.

Among Pritchard’s many accomplishments as a TRTF board member, he was instrumental in the development of the “A Helping Hand” program, which provides grants for retired educators who are experiencing critical emergencies. Pritchard also spearheaded the “Legacy Campaign.” The “Legacy Campaign” promotes the positive image of public educators and works to connect active educators with retirees.


Tom and Jane Pritchard (left) with Mike and Francine Lehr (right) in front of the TRTA state office building.

 

Both TRTA and TRTF are deeply indebted to the efforts of Lehr and Pritchard. Their tireless work ethics have molded TRTA into the organization it is today, and their legacy will carry on long after their departures from TRTF. Thank you Mike Lehr and Tom Pritchard.

Please consider donating to TRTF to carry on the initiatives started by Lehr and Pritchard. Your donations will not only help sustain “A Helping Hand” and the “Legacy Campaign,” but also will add to the scholarships and grants the organization provides to students and educators. Click here to make a donation.

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