Friday, May 25, 2018

Governor Abbott Turns His Back on Texas Teachers Once Again

            ….and it’s not just teachers.  Governor Abbott continues to turn his back on all public school employees and retirees.  For months, media outlets across the state have reported on Texas public education retirees suffering greatly as a result of the changes Governor Abbott, Lt. Governor Patrick, most members of the Texas Senate, and several members of the Texas House made to the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) of Texas while keeping Employee Retirement System (ERS) of Texas healthcare for all other retired state employees (AND retired Texas legislators) better than we have EVER had.  While our $400 healthcare deductible increased to $1500, theirs stayed at $0 for healthcare and $50 for prescriptions.  As if that isn’t bad enough, we have to pay 100 percent of our healthcare costs, including prescriptions, out of pocket until we reach that deductible.  For married couples on TRS-Care, they must reach a $3000 deductible before their insurance pays a single penny.  While the three-option healthcare plan for those of us under 65 changed to a one-option, high-deductible plan with a monthly premium of $200 beginning January 1 and rising to $385 over the next four years, their premium remained at $0 per month. 
            March 29, Rep. Terry Canales, House District 40, sent a letter to Gov. Abbott, asking him to call a special session to address TRS-Care.  These are excerpts from that letter:
            My retired local teachers and retired public school employees, who are on a fixed income, are now paying hundreds of dollars more a month (sometimes more) for healthcare services and essential medications.  These Texas teachers and school employees, who have dedicated their lives to service, increasingly have to make the choice to pay their mortgage, buy groceries, or pay for their potentially life-saving medications. 
            It is clear to me that we cannot wait for the next regular legislative session, which begins in January of 2019, to create a permanent fix for TRS-Care. I humbly request that you call a special session of the Texas Legislature so that we can immediately address the needs of our teachers and public school employees whose insurance is provided by the Teacher Retirement System. We must ask ourselves, if we don’t support our teachers, what does that mean about the Texas Legislature’s support for students and the overall Texas education system?
            It is now nearly two months after Rep. Canales sent that letter to Gov. Abbott.  No special session.  No response to all of the public school employees who have bravely told their stories to media outlets.  No response to those who have allowed me to share their stories on my blog.  And no response to those who have called his office in what I feel certain must be record numbers.  Instead, there has been deafening silence.
            There has also been silence from most of our elected officials.  Lt. Gov. Patrick has remained silent.  And why haven’t we seen other state representatives and senators taking a stand with Rep. Canales?  Where are they?  How can they see these stories, read these stories, and carry on as if nothing is wrong?  How can they sleep at night, knowing educators, under their watch, are suffering day and night?
            No matter how many stories are shared, it doesn’t begin to touch the surface of the healthcare nightmare we’re living.  And it isn’t only retired public school employees.  Many employees still working in our schools are suffering because our legislators have decided we do not deserve the healthcare benefits they receive.
            We will continue to speak out. We will continue to share these true stories of what Gov. Abbott, Lt. Gov. Patrick, and many members of the Texas Legislature have allowed.   These are people who have served, or who are serving, the children of our state. We all had contracts with the state.  Promises have been made throughout our careers.  Those contracts have been broken.  Those promises have not been kept.
            Please read these stories:

My RA (rheumatoid arthritis) medications cost $12, 000-$13,000 every 90 days.   My back was broken by a student in my 21st year of teaching. I didn’t sue because my children attended the same school district where this happened. I loved my kids in my classroom, as well. I wasn’t going to sue and take money from my district, my colleagues, or the children in the district.

The district’s workers’ comp fought me on getting the needed operation for 1.5 years. I finally got the operation and was in physical therapy when the district notified me that Texas is a right-to-work state and I could either medically retire or be terminated. Had they let me have the operation when I was first hurt, my career could have possibly been saved. The longer I waited, the more nerve damage that occurred.

Now, I have extreme nerve damage and a very low pension. After insurance, I bring home about $1100 per month. Recently, I have developed lung nodules and I am in treatment for that, as well.

I did all the right things in life by working hard and educating myself. I have an M.A., yet I can’t afford to support myself with this change in our insurance plan. I can’t afford to pay almost six months of my pension to meet the deductible to buy my medication.

How could the Legislature do this to us? How can they destroy our lives with no remorse?

I watched the hearings on the internet. They were laughing and chatting it up, all while destroying us. I actually cried when I watched the hearings. Unforgivable! I will use my vote and voice to get them out of office.

Pamela Cheshire
Retired from Goose Creek ISD
Currently residing in Whitney, TX

My husband is the diabetic who was interviewed for one of the news stories.  We are both retired teachers, so TRS-Care is our only option. We are 60, so we fall in that under-65 bracket (Horrible!!). His insulin runs about $900 a month. He’s already met the $1500, so now he pays ONLY the 20% which was about $220 last month for everything. Because of his situation, I put off going to the doctor when I got sick. Finally, I had to go, and we found I had strep throat. Who knew we’d have to drain our savings for health care?! Not what we were promised!!

Randy and Robin Heisig

I can no longer afford my asthma medication. Also, my husband had to have a yearly CT scan because he had cancer five years ago. We haven’t received the bill for that yet, but I know we won’t be able to pay it. We also had to drop healthcare coverage on our son because it was an extra $300/month. Two weeks later, he ended up in the emergency room with no insurance. He now has an $800 bill he can’t pay.

Ruth Cooney

I’m the dependent of a Texas teacher and I have a severe chronic blood disorder. I am on a specialty injectable medication that is normally used by cancer patients.  It is something I have to inject daily, likely for the remainder of my life. We switched to ActiveCare after I separated from my job because of the severe illness.  I initially took ActiveCare-2 because there was a co-pay of hundreds of dollars for specialty drugs vs. thousands on other plans. Over the years, this has become too draining financially, and we were forced to take HD-1. With premiums over $900 per month and rising, as well as hitting the out-of=pocket maximum every single year, we’re facing extreme physical and financial stress. At this point, there is no way to save for retirement, save for our young children’s college educations, nor even replace my husband’s aging car that he needs to get to work every day. We’ve been making monthly payments to an area hospital to pay off debt since 2015 with no end in sight. Charity can only go so far.  Teachers must be treated fairly and be given the money to support their families! (My husband is in an incredible district.  There’s nothing more they can do without state support)!

Sheralyn Chilson Irwin

I’m pre-65. My eye doctor wanted to change my glaucoma eye drops to a different one. The old drug was $21 dollars for a three-month supply.  The new drug is $900 for a three-month supply. I told her I would just wait until Medicare to get the new drug. I taught for 36 years.
I retired from Grapevine Colleyville in 2012. I taught 8th grade English and GT English. I retired to take care of my 90-year-old mom. She lived with me, in my home, until her death.

Lori Von Gundy Bland

Susan Alcorn Taylor
I retired from Crosby ISD.

Active teacher here! Due to mental health meds and appointments, I have to be on Active Care 2. My premiums have gone up every year. With the addition of our daughter in July 2017 and my husband being a small business owner, we have added her to my plan. (My husband has his own catastrophic plan as we can’t afford to add him to mine.)  I am now taking home $300 less than I did last year. That money plus all of the other new-baby expenses has left us living nearly paycheck to paycheck. After reading about the  9.5% premium increase next year, I’m honestly considering leaving the profession. I have NO idea what I’d do, but I can’t afford to be a teacher if things don’t change.

I know my situation isn’t as dire as my fellow retired educators, but it’s still scary.

Karen Sandifer Wallace
Fort Worth ISD = While no district is perfect, I believe they treat us well. In fact, they actually contribute a little bit more than what the state requires, but it’s still not enough. 😩 I truly don’t think they can afford to contribute any more than they already do.)

I retired in May of 2017 with 34 years of service. I have taught K-12, the last 15 years as an elementary librarian split between two campuses with enrollment around 550 at each..
I was so excited to retire and actually be able to afford insurance for my husband and myself through TRS. I thought it was a great rate and plan considering the district rate. The summer came, and all we heard about was the raising premium of TRS for retirees. Then the shocker came and decisions had to be made to keep or drop the plan. Financially, I would be able to pay the monthly increase. But then the reality set in. The deductible must be met before anything is paid. But hold on!  The prescription coverage will not cover my diabetes medication. It will be $1200 through Caremark. They will not take the discount card..  CVS pharmacy will take the discount card, but it’s still $1000.00.   My check take-home pay is about $3000.00  I know that’s better than some... but 34 years of service.
And bloodwork must be done at a Quest Lab. Now I hear this will not be paid until the deductible is met.
$679 ×12= $8178.00 just for the premium. Does not include a $1500 deductible per person.
I am looking to use a Canadian Pharmacy for my diabetic drug--$78.00 for three months.  And I found out today CPAP supplies are not covered.

Pam Sedita Capps
Killeen ISD

I just signed up with a Canadian pharmacy today; a sad state of affairs.

Ronald Baker

We have not been able to find a good M.D. since we retired ! A group of seven doctors in Georgetown would not see us because we had Medicare! A second group would see us, and the office visit would be between $90 and $200 each.   You pay them cash, and they will file insurance for you.  About six to eight weeks later, they would send you what the insurance paid them!

We can't get a short-term drug filled in Lampasas, Texas, because our drug card has the names United, AARP, Walgreens on it, and we don't have a Walgreens!

We are over 65! We could not keep TRS! We went with retired teachers ‘Medicare supplement Plan F. The reason the doctors won't take us is because many in this area will not take Medicare! We do have a doctor currently, but it took a long time to find one that would take us!

Linda Klose
I taught for 30 years! I taught for Donna I.S.D., Bonham I.S.D., and Lometa I.S.D.

I am pre-65.  Just retired last May. My injectable GENERIC medication for severe migraines used to be $25 for a 90-day supply. As of the changes after January, it is now over $3,200 for a 90-day supply! No therapeutic alternative available. This is Dihydroergotamine Mesylate, generic for DHE-45. This is the only medication my migraines respond to, so when I run out, not sure what I will do....

Lisa King

I had to go to the emergency room in December for a life-threatening allergic reaction (eyes, tongue, and throat swelling, coughing, and having trouble breathing). Got two shots and 45 minutes of monitoring.  After insurance, my bill is $2084.  That is twice my mortgage! I will be paying on it for a while, but I had no choice but an emergency room because it was after 10 p.m. Normally I would go to an urgent care (which still costs me $125-$175 for the visit and another $100+ for the shot, but is way better than an emergency room) 😢

Alexis Escorcia


  1. While we in the middle rung for pay teacher retirement falls at the bottom. We need to organize and make noise like the other states.
    A lobby days are good but we must demand meetings and not just meetings but change. If they cant provide a solution we must not ne too naive to vote them out.
    #TCTA #AFT

    1. That's the ONLY way things are going to change---if we get LOUDER, STRONGER, and BRING THE MASSES TO THE POLLS!

  2. Texans4publiceducation
    #blockvote #candan

  3. They do not care. Let them wear the badge of other state officials where teachers had to take matters in there own hands. It is sad but they do not listen so shut it down. Strike, Walk out for your sake and the sake of the students who continue to suffer inadequate funding for Texas Youth. It is a shame and travesty but the Govenor needs to be pushed out of his comfort zone of sticking it to education and Patrick leadership is no leadership at all unless you bought a ticket on the Titanic then it is smooth sailing and don't look back. Time for taking passes along time ago. They are just happy that you don't get it. It is the only thing that they will listen too or just shut up and keep taking your lumps

    1. You use the PERFECT words for all of the elected officials in Texas who have caused this--shame, travesty, inadequate...
      Oh, I get it! We just need A LOT MORE public education employees/retirees and community members who support public education and us to stand/fight/vote with us!

  4. We start by voting them out of office. Get someone in the office that will be helpful, not detrimental.

  5. Kristina HeffnerMay 28, 2018 at 12:36 PM

    I work three part time jobs to just make ends meet as a retired teacher. I taught for 33 years and never expected that this would be my future. Please do more to reward the people who tirelessly served this state and its children. I will not be supporting Governor Abbott in the next election unless he does more for retired teacher and public educators.

    1. Please do not hold your breath. He has proven over and over again, public education and public education employees/retirees are at the very bottom of his priority list---if we're on it at all!

  6. I am so glad I decided to get an annuity when I began my education career 25 years ago. I'll be at least 60-65 before my retirement percentage will increase. My husband who has worked as an electrician all his life will not be able to share his social security if something ever happens to him. I have also worked extra jobs to help with our income but will have a decrease in my SS benefits. I work in a small district and must purchase 90% of supplies needed and drive as a sub bus driver to supplement my income. Teachers all around our country have been ripped off and treated unfairly. If I didn't love my students, I would have quit a long time ago! Too many excellent educators are trading in their grade books for jobs in plants or sales, and our children are suffering! Shame on politicians who do not place educators as important contributors to our society!

    1. I taught in Texas public school for 29 years
      Another 12 months would have meant 2.2 percent in my retirement check. I couldn't continue. Part of the problem was getting too involved in politics. Not athletics, band and cheerleading. I ran for state representative twice in a conservative district.

    2. Not until all of our teacher organizations work TOGETHER and MANY MORE public ed employees/retirees stand up TOGETHER will we have the POWER to AFFECT DRASTIC CHANGE!

  7. I retired from teaching in Texas in 2006. Though I taught in enough other states to be fully vested in Social Security, my ss benefit is reduced to a pittance...not enough to pay for our teacher retirement health insurance, which increased fourfold this year. I am healthy now, but my husband has had type 1 diabetes for 51 years. I only pray that Texas will get on the ball and take care of those that gave so much to the children of that “great” state.

    1. We will, IF all public education employees/retires STAND UP, SPEAK OUT, and VOTE!!!

    2. Chris, I (we) feel your pain. My fathers parents retired from HISD (Milby High School) after a 30+ year career. I have 3 sisters and 2 daughters who are teachers. All three of my sisters gave up and moved on to other things. All three had less than 10 years each. One of my daughters left the profession during her first full year. In her case, there were medical issues she was dealing with. My youngest has been teaching for about five years. 2018 will be her last year. Combined reasons for my family leaving the profession include; PARENTS of children; CHILDREN out of control; No support from the Administration in dealing with the parents and children; PAY and,the threat of losing retirement benefits.
      I am a retired Houston Fire Fighter. You may, or may not, be aware of the take down of the Houston Fire Pension Fund in 2017. I should point out that the attack on Teacher-Police-Fire-Military retirement benefits, is not a partisan issue. Democrats and Republicans alike, are working together to take control of our retirement funds and use the money to bailout their political pet projects and favors. Federal/State/Local government are out of money; the taxpayers are tired of the government misusing their hard earned money and, with little else to turn to, they've set there sights on Public Pensions.
      One year ago, Greg Abbott signed into law, SB2190. He did this on the anniversary of the Southwest Inn Motel Fire,in which the HFD lost 5 firefighters. To top it off, on that day, Houston City Council was in session, received word of Abbott signing the Bill and Mayor Turner announced their victory in taking our pension. Turner topped it off by refusing to acknowledge the sacrifice of our Brothers and Sister, Killed in the Line of Duty, May 31, 2013.
      There is a nationwide push by politicians, guided by wealthy investors such as John Arnold, to take our hard earned and promised retirement benefits. I wrote and number of articles about this issue in 2016-17, calling for the teachers-police and fire personnel, to work together to stop this attack. Teachers-Police-Firefighters will lose this fight, if for no other reason than the fact that the politicians have effectively used a divide and conquer tactic. Here's a link to some of the articles I wrote.

    3. The problem that I, and many others, have is that when we retired we moved out of Texas. I wish I could vote. I AM a member of the TRTA.

  8. So sad to read these stories of teachers reaching out for help and no one lends a hand. I will pray for this to change.

  9. Chris, could you tell me the male-female ratio of retirees covered by TRS as contrasted with ERS? I'm guessing that TRS retirees are overwhelmingly female and ERS mainly male - which would explain to me the vast discrepancy in the coverage offered by each plan.

  10. Somebody is going to feel the pain, he choose teachers over taxpayers, as a taxpayer, I am all for it! Now he just needs to dial back all the tax payer subsidized benefits for those other workers and then teachers well feel better when all are equal! Taxpayers have all the taxes they can bear!

  11. What does one do for medical coverage when you are under 65 years old and not yet eligible for Medicare yet? I have had breast cancer twice I get mammograms and MRIS.every 6 months plus see a surgeon after. I have a host of the conditions and medications. I am on SSDI..I worked all my life until I became disabled before retirement age.

  12. What is our next step? Gov not respo ding, Lt. Gov is a fraud. Write every single member of the legislature?
    Rally was great, but not well-attended. What next?