Brock Gregg joined the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) as the Administrative Coordinator in April. Previously, he has worked with the Association of Texas Professional Educators (ATPE).
He joined TRTA’s Government Relations Hope Osborn on TRTATV to discuss the issues active educators are facing as the 85th Texas Legislature approaches. Retirees and actives share a mutual interest in continuing the good work of public education, as they both pay into and are serviced by the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS).
According to Gregg, the three primary issues actives will lobby on during the legislative session are school funding, the STAAR test and the privatization of public schools.
School districts began filing lawsuits against the state of Texas in the 1980s in an attempt to generate increased public school funding. Many of these lawsuits have resulted in an increase, however the latest verdict ruled in favor of the state. The Supreme Court issued its ruling in May, which upheld the state’s funding system as constitutional.
However, school funding, or lack thereof, will continue to be a headline issue for active educator associations heading into the legislative session. Much of the schools’ desire for increased funding comes from the 2011 legislative session, wherein the Legislature cut public school funding by $5.4 billion.
The most recent lawsuit was filed on behalf of 600 school districts.
The STAAR test is the state standardized testing program. The test has been much maligned for many years, and it featured another rocky season of results in 2015-16. The test had its contact picked up by a new vendor, Educational Testing Service (ETS), and the company had a difficult time organizing the procedure.
Tests were misdelivered, answers were lost and the scores were delayed by weeks.
However, the confusion surrounding the testing process is just a part of the issue. The state uses the results of the STAAR test to rate school districts.
For some school districts, consistently low scores can result in closure. Additionally, many schools and teachers feel the test is not in the best interest of the students.
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has been a driving force behind school choice. School choice represents the process through which the state provides funding to send students to private schools. Gregg describes the privatization of schools to become “corporate profit centers” as “wrong-headed.”
Patrick again plans to make school choice a priority in the 2017 legislative session. During the 2015 session, Patrick’s legislation proposed to provide $100 million in tax credits to businesses that would provide scholarships to public school students to send them to private schools.
Gregg hopes that parents can help “put that to rest.”
“Public education is for the public, for our students. It is a foundation of our democracy,” Gregg said.
Gregg also addressed the TRS-Care Care issue for active educators. TRS-Active Care is the health care program provided by the Teacher Retirement System of Texas to active educators. Like its retiree counterpart, Active Care is being hit hard by skyrocketing health care costs. According to a 2014 study on Active-Care, premiums for the program have increased by 267 percent since it was first created in 2002. The plan covers close to 350,000 members.
In order to have a successful 85th legislative session, Greg says active educators and retirees must work together.
“Send a unified message that education need help. Educators should be respected. And that all of us working together are going to get the pension system and health care systems that we deserve,” Gregg said.
We look forward to providing you with more episodes of TRTATV! Upcoming editions will include analysis of the Defined Benefit pension plan and interviews with legislators and staff member.