The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) Board of Trustees will meet next week in Edinburg, Texas for its annual retreat. The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) reported on the significance of this meeting in December 2017 when the board discussed the agency’s actuarial valuation.

At the time, TRS reported that the pension fund exceeded expectations for the year and was following a path toward actuarial soundness. It was also reported that a decision regarding changing the assumptions used to value the pension fund and determine its long-term financial viability would be forthcoming.

The TRS Board of Trustees is considering a proposal to lower the fund’s investment return assumption from the current 8 percent rate to a lower rate. The justification for this change stems from the experience study of the fund over the past five years, and projections about the economy and investment returns over the next five years. This study, which considers how assumptions compare to actual fund performance, is mandated by law.

The majority of state pension systems across the nation that have performed experience studies have lowered their assumptions. If TRS lowers the rate of return assumption, a significant increase in the pension fund’s unfunded liabilities will occur. The Texas Legislature will then be asked to increase their contribution rate to help the fund return to a funding period of 31 years or less to meet the statutory definition of actuarial soundness. TRTA will report on the effects of this decision following next week’s TRS board meeting.

TRTA’s state officers and Executive Director, Tim Lee, will be present at the meeting and will address the board regarding the implications and possible policy and funding issues associated with this change. TRTA will keep its members updated on any changes that are approved by the TRS Board of Trustees.

Primary Election Update

Recently, some anti-public education groups in Texas have been discouraging educators from voting in the Primary Election. On the social media outlet Twitter, educators and their supporters are fighting back against this movement with class by #blowingthewhistle and sharing all the positive things teachers do to care for students every day. Click here to check it out.

Do you have a plan on when, where and which party primary you will choose to vote in when early voting begins on February 20? TRTA encourages you to make your plan now and add it to your calendar! Consider sharing your plan with other retirees, and encourage them to research candidates and to cast their ballot strategically by voting in the primary that will make the most difference for them and for TRTA’s legislative priorities.

Voter turnout in the Texas Primary Elections historically is very low. Considering the large number of active and retired educators in Texas, now is the time to have the most impact in the Texas election cycle!

Many TRTA members ask how to find the candidates who will support retiree and public education issues. Below are some great resources to help you determine where candidates stand. After doing your research, please share what you have learned with other retirees and use social media to remind fellow retirees and active educators in your district to vote!

TRTA does not endorse candidates for political office, but we encourage our members to be politically active and spread the word to active educators that the best time to impact education issues in the next legislative session is NOW. Do not miss the opportunity to vote in the Primary Election!

Resources to help you determine which candidates to support when you vote in the primary election:

  • https://apps.texastribune.org/2018-texas-primary-candidates/ The Texas Tribune is a non-profit news publication. This list contains all primary candidates for both parties.
  • http://www.vote411.org/ The Texas League of Women Voters site allows you to find your polling place, build a ballot based on where you live and vote, and includes a non-partisan voter guide on every candidate.
  • https://www.teachthevote.org/ The Association of Texas Professional Educators (ATPE) site is non-partisan, specific to education issues, and allows you to view candidates by legislative district as well as statewide candidates. The site includes voting records and candidate surveys on education issues.
  • https://www.texansforpubliceducation.com/ The Texans for Public Education website, and associated Facebook page, ranks candidates as friendly, unfriendly, or neutral regarding education and retirement issues.
  • http://www.txparentpac.com/ Texas Parent Pac’s website will feature endorsements as they are released in the coming weeks.

Candidates Themselves Are the BEST Resource!

If you’re not sure where a candidate stands, you should always feel like you can call and ask them! Reach out to candidates through their websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, email, and by phone. Always be courteous, and ask them to tell you where they stand on issues affecting Texas public education retirees and education issues in general. Maintain this communication with candidates throughout the election cycle and follow up with them. Start building that relationship now, so that when the legislative session begins again in 2019, you have established a connection with your legislator that will lead to productive conversations and solutions!