Blog

08 Nov 2018
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November is Foundation Month! Read About TRTF’s Classroom Assistance Grants

November has been designated by the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) Board of Directors as a time to raise funds for and honor the charitable endeavors of our partner organization, the Texas Retired Teachers Foundation (TRTF).

TRTF just launched its annual appeal to raise funds for its four primary charitable programs and its endowment fund: “A Helping Hand,” Classroom Assistance Grants, Beginning Teacher Scholarships, the Disaster Relief Fund and the Lehr-Pritchard Endowment Fund. TRTF hopes to raise $100,000 in donations to support its programs to help educators of the past, present, and future!

Each year, the Texas Retired Teachers Foundation (TRTF) distributes thirty $500 classroom assistance grants to educators all across Texas. The grants are awarded to public school teachers who demonstrate commitment to the education of Texas children through the creation of programs, events, learning platforms, or other innovative classroom projects.

Since 2008, TRTF has provided more than $480,000 to educators of the past, present, and future, including $78,000 in grants to public school teachers.

We challenge our members to watch the video below and really see how donations are changing lives! You can also read more about all of TRTF’s charitable endeavors in the third quarter issue of The VOICE.

Please consider making your year-end, tax-deductible donation to TRTF this November. To donate online, please click here. To make a donation by phone, please call 1.800.880.1650 and ask for Sarah.

Bryan Teacher and Students Create “Texan Brews” Coffee Cart

One of this year’s classroom assistance grant recipients was Dena Favors, a middle school teacher in Bryan, Texas. She put her $500 towards starting a coffee delivery service for students in her SAILS class. SAILS stands for social academic independent living skills. The class is for scholars who have mild to moderate disabilities.

Favors’ students go door-to-door between classrooms delivering coffee to teachers. They charge $1 per cup of coffee, and each student is assigned a role. One student will knock on the door and greet the teacher. Another student will collect the money, and the other students help prepare the coffee, hand it over and check the teachers’ punch card. Teachers are ordering the coffee via a Google Form, and each Tuesday and Thursday, the students deliver the orders.

The students are working on basic living skills, according to Favors.

“Some of our students are learning to communicate. They have low verbal skills,” Favors said. “They’re getting to learn social skills.”

Since the program has started Favors has seen progression in those communication skills. One of her students has started to lift his head more when speaking. Others have become more confident in their ability to communicate with adults.

“I love watching them come in and asking about coffee cart,” Favors said. “That gives me joy to watch them grow.”

Favors was ecstatic when she found out that TRTF had selected her application for a grant.

“It was such a huge help. Without it, we wouldn’t have been able to start it. I’m really grateful that we were able to get the money,” Favors said.

Applications Now Available!

TRTF is now accepting applications for Classroom Assistance Grants and will award thirty $500 grants to public school teachers in Texas for the 2019-2020 school year. To download an application, please click here. Applications are due to the TRTF office no later than 5:00 p.m. on February 28, 2019.

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05 Nov 2018
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Election Day is Tomorrow!

Tomorrow, Tuesday, November 6, 2018 is General Election day! We know many members and friends of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) early voted between October 22 and November 2. In fact, voter turnout in Texas has soared beyond the turnout for the most recent midterm election held in 2014!

Per the Texas Tribune, “preliminary data shows turnout over 12 days of early voting in those 30 counties (where 78 percent of registered voters live) . . . surpassed the entire turnout of the 2014 midterm election — more than early voting and election-day voting combined.” Read more about voter turnout by clicking here.

However, if you have not yet cast your vote, tomorrow is the day! Here are few helpful resources for you as you make your voting plans. Be sure to invite a friend, family member or colleague to come and vote too! Be prepared to wait in line, but sure to stay and cast that vote!

Where do I vote on Election Day?

It depends on your county! In some counties, voters can vote at any polling location; but in other counties, voters must vote in their precinct. Check your county election website to find your voting location or check www.VOTE411.org.

What is on my ballot?

Find your ballot on your county election website or check www.VOTE411.org, which will have all statewide races and local races if there is a League of Women Voters in your community.

Who or what do I vote for?

TRTA does not endorse candidates for political office. However, it is easy to compare candidates on the non-partisan website www.VOTE411.org. You can even print your choices before going to the polls. For more information pertaining specifically to education issues, try visiting Texas Educators Vote, another non-partisan group. You can also check with your fellow TRTA members if you have questions about the candidates running for office in your district.

What about voter ID?

Don’t forget your ID when heading to the polls. Learn more about what types of identification are acceptable by clicking here.

TRTA has many dedicated members putting in effort to civically engage their communities. Thank you! You should feel great about what we have accomplished together so far! Let’s celebrate by crossing the finish line together and have EVERY EDUCATOR VOTE!

TRS Retirees Deserve Better Video: TRS-Care

TRTA has been sounding the alarm for TRS-Care for many, many years. In 2017, these alarms finally sounded loud and clear, and became a new reality for many retirees when the TRS-Care budget shortfall caused increased premiums and decreased benefits for participants.

TRS-Care has been suffering the consequences of a funding formula that relies on active teacher payroll. The funding for retiree health care isn’t linked to the actual costs of running the program. In general, costs for providing health care have sky-rocketed in recent years, and TRS-Care has not been immune from these changes.

The rising health care costs have caused the program to undergo numerous budget shortfalls over the years. Retirees shouldered much of the $1.1 billion shortfall in 2017. Between the state and school districts, the Legislature added $484 million to TRS-Care during the regular session. The special session in August 2017 saw the Legislature put an additional $212 million into TRS-Care.

The additional funding was able to save the program. But the cuts were deep and the changes were severe.

As a result of the changes to TRS-Care, more than 36,000 participants left the program. This is because despite additional funding received from the state, the program as it existed in years past was replaced with a one size fits all plan that doesn’t actually fit all needs for all participants. As a result, many plan participants went to health care marketplace to seek other options.

We are asking all TRTA members to reach out to their legislators and candidates running for political office.

Tell them that your health care costs are too high. The state base funding is too low. We need a permanent solution to this ongoing health care problem. At TRTA, we’ve studied this problem for years. We recommend that the state increase its base funding for TRS-Care by 1 percent now and by .25 percent every year for the next 8 years. Thousands of retirees have contacted TRTA and want the traditional Medicare supplement option for retirees age 65 years and older added back to the plan.

Everyone running for office in Texas should know, understand, and agree that TRS retirees deserve retirement security including affordable, accessible health care. TRS Retirees Deserve Better!

Read TRTA’s full list of TRS-Care recommendations!

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29 Oct 2018
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TRS Retirees Deserve Better Video: Cost-of-Living Adjustment

The last time TRS retirees received a cost-of-living increase was in 2013—five years ago. It was a three percent cost-of-living increase, capped at $100 per month, and it only went to TRS retirees who retired before September 1st, 2004. If you retired after that date, 14 years ago, you’ve never seen a cost-of-living increase during your retirement.

To say that a lot has changed since 2004 would be a massive understatement. The most commonly asked question I receive is “what is the likelihood that retirees will receive a COLA this year?” Retirees are in desperate need, and when the previous COLA was done in 2013, we were told that the Legislature would come back to finish the job and help the retirees who didn’t receive it.

One of the issues that has plagued the chances of a COLA has been the state requirement of the TRS fund being ‘actuarially sound.’ The state defines actuarial soundness as the TRS fund being within 31 years of paying off its unfunded liabilities.

So, what does this mean for the chances of retirees hoping for a COLA or other benefit adjustment in 2019?

A COLA will never materialize unless the elected officials can agree on increasing funding for TRS. Retirees have been told that since TRS has lowered its rate of return assumption, a benefit increase will not occur for the next 50 to 100 years. TRTA believes that this is unacceptable. The Legislature should increase state funding for TRS by approximately 1.83 percent, which equates to $768 million per year. This increase, paired with strong investment returns, could open the door for a COLA.

The only way this type of increase can occur is if both active and retired educators get out the vote in the November election. The election will determine whether the Legislature will be filled with legislators friendly to retirees’ needs. Texas early voting continues through Nov. 2! TRTA is encouraging its members to VOTE EARLY!

We are asking all TRTA members to reach out to their legislators and candidates running for political office. Ask them to set policy that will provide adequate funding for the TRS pension fund so that retirees can receive a much-needed benefit adjustment to keep up with increasing health care costs and modern-day expenses.

Everyone running for office in Texas should know, understand, and agree that TRS retirees deserve retirement security including a pension increase. TRS Retirees Deserve Better!

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