TRS Defined Benefits
The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) has provided its defined benefit (DB) pension plan to retirees since its creation in 1937. During that time, TRS has never missed a payment to its annuitants, and it has stood as a testament to stability through times of great economic uncertainty.
The defined benefit plan teachers in Texas pay into is a source of great pride, and it is one of the true upsides of participating in the teaching profession. As many private companies have pivoted away from defined benefit plans, TRS has stayed true to its slogan of being “the forever fund.”
However, some Texas lawmakers and outside interest organizations are pushing to replace the DB plan provided by TRS to a defined contribution plan. Defined contribution plans move the burden of providing retirement benefits away from the employer and onto the employee.
A move towards DC plans would be a disastrous decision by the Texas Legislature. DC plans have not only proven to be less efficient than DB plans, but DC plans also may leave retirees empty-handed during their retirement years.
With a DB plan, a retiree cannot outlive their retirement benefits. Also, the benefits are based on several factors: age at retirement, years of service, and highest salaries. Unlike DC plans, the retirement benefits are not based on the balance of the account!
TRS represents the seventh largest pension fund in the United States. It’s investment professionals have proven to be among the best in the business for growing the DB plan. Nonetheless, there are pension critics who seek to dismantle the TRS fund.
Josh McGee was appointed as the chairman of the Texas Pension Review Board in November 2015. McGee is an outspoken advocate for defined contribution plans, and he serves as the vice-president of the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, an organization that has engineered multiple states to move away from defined benefit plans for public employees.
DB plans are the reliable, long-term pension plan that public education retirees deserve. The dangers of moving away from the TRS fund are real, and there will be defined contribution advocates who wish to see legislation passed to remove the TRS fund. TRTA will stand to fight these attempts, and our lobbying efforts will be as strong as ever to provide cost-of-living increases for our members.
The best way to help is by joining the fight. In the upcoming weeks, we will be providing new TRTATV episodes on how to lobby your legislators and work with legislative aides. Additionally, you should join a TRTA local unit to stay up-to-date on the latest legislation, and be sure to vote in the March Primary and November General elections.