Tuesday, July 24, 2018

MORE Bad News for Retired Teachers and All Public Ed Employees in Texas


            For once, I would love to be able to write about GOOD news for Texas’ public education employees/retirees.  But today, we received this news alert from the Texas Retired Teachers Association regarding this Friday’s meeting of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas Board.  (Remember that TRS actually covers ALL Texas public education employees, although the name indicates it is only for teachers.)
            AS IF we are not facing enough financial devastation already because of the TRS healthcare decisions the Texas Legislature made during the 2017 Legislative Session, now we have this to worry about.  For those who are new to the discussion, here are the key points regarding the TRS healthcare nightmare:

¨      The deductible for TRS retirees under the age of 65 was increased from $400 to $1500 ($3000 for married, under-65 retirees covered by TRS Care) during the 2017 Legislative Session.
¨      Meanwhile, the Texas Legislature kept the deductible for ALL OTHER state employees who are retired, including retired legislators, at $0.  (They are covered by the state’s OTHER retirement system, the Employees Retirement System of Texas, known as ERS.)
¨      We used to have a choice between three different levels of coverage, with an increasing premium as we moved up the coverage ladder.  Now we have one choice---the high-deductible, poor-coverage plan.
¨      ERS retirees continue to enjoy excellent healthcare benefits.
¨      This year, our monthly premium is $200.  It will increase over the next four years until it is close to $400 a month.
¨      ERS retirees continue to get their healthcare for free.  Their monthly premium is $0.
¨      As mentioned above, TRS retirees now have a $1500 deductible.  We must now pay 100 percent out of pocket until that deductible is met.  That means no co-pay for any doctor/hospital visits. For married couples covered by TRS, they must reach the $3000 deductible (NOT $1500 per person) before one penny of their healthcare costs is paid.
¨      ERS employees, as mentioned above, have no deductible.
¨      The $1500 deductible for TRS retirees also pertains to prescription drug costs, except for a list of standard, generic drugs.  Like with our healthcare, there is no longer a prescription-drug copay for all of us who are retired teachers, school bus drivers, cafeteria workers, librarians, classroom aides, maintenance workers, police officers, custodians, nurses, social workers, counselors, administrators, or sign language interpreters.
¨      ERS retirees have a $50 prescription-drug deductible.
¨      During the 2017 Legislative Session, Texas legislators appropriated double the amount of money for ERS than for TRS, although ERS has half the number of members.
¨      Throughout our careers, we were promised affordable healthcare when we retired.  That promise has been shattered.
¨      ERS retirees were promised the same thing.  Their promise continues to be fulfilled.
¨      For seven months, we have called, emailed, mailed, and tweeted messages to Governor Greg Abbott to let him know how we are suffering.  To date, he has not even acknowledged our pleas.  Not even acknowledged, which shows his complete disrespect for public education employees who dedicated our lives to the children of this state!

            In the TRTA alert this afternoon, we were reminded of more staggering statistics:

¨      The Texas Legislature “has not authorized any pension increases for retirees since 2013.”
¨      In 2013, the Legislature provided a pension increase for retirees who retired on or before August 31, 2004.  They received a three-percent increase in their annuity, though they could not receive more than an additional $100 per month.
¨      Those of us who retired on or after September 1, 2004, have never received a pension increase.
¨      Thousands of retired school employees have seen reduced Social Security benefits (if they receive them at all), increased health care costs, and no pension increases for as long as 14 years in their retirement.”
¨      “Ninety-five percent of Texas school districts don’t contribute to Social Security.”  What this means is that those who worked their entire careers in Texas public schools will not receive any SS benefits.  Those of us who have worked outside of the public schools will receive benefits, but they are far less than we would be receiving if we were not members of TRS because of a federal loophole.
¨      “The pure state budget general revenue contribution to Texas TRS is the absolute lowest percentage of payroll contribution to a state TRS pension plan in the nation.”

            This Thursday at 11 a.m., Texas AFT and retired school employees from across the state will hold a news conference on the steps of the TRS building in Austin to emphasize what the board’s decision the next day means for all of us who are already suffering at the hands of the Texas Legislature. 
            Friday, the TRS board will make a critical decision regarding lowering the rate of return assumption.  I urge ALL active and retired public education employees to read, in its entirety, the TRTA alert at the beginning of this blog post AND to respond to the call to action at the end of the alert by marking your calendars and watching the TRS Board’s meeting this Friday online, if you can’t be there in person. 


CALL TO ACTION!  
July 25, 2018
The TRS board meeting is THIS FRIDAY!  I just heard from board secretary Katherine Farrell. We can send emails for the board to her email (click on "her email"), and the entire board will get it!
I urge your to remain respectful and professional.  In my opinion, four of the board members have sincerely been listening to our concerns and feeling our pain.  Three of them are in the boat with us as active/retired educators!
Now is our chance to send emails urging them to think about THEIR teachers, bus drivers, school secretaries, classroom aides, librarians, nurses, maintenance workers, cafeteria workers, counselors, sign language interpreters, social workers, police officers, and administrators as they make this difficult decision Friday!

ACT NOW!!!!!


Chris Ardis retired in May of 2013 following a 29-year teaching career. She now helps companies with business communications and social media and works as a sales coordinator for Tony Roma's and Macaroni Grill. Chris can be reached at cardis1022@aol.com. (Photo by Linda Blackwell, McAllen)


149 comments:

  1. Thank you Chris for all your posts to inform us on important issues TRS members are facing.

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    1. You're welcome! We're all in this together! We have to get LOUDER and STRONGER!

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    2. I am curious how the political divide voted. What are the numbers in comparision to inflation, to private school teachers? We all live on the same economy. Curious - not being negative about either side - curious.

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    3. Chris, this information provided just breaks my heart. I was raised in the home of an educator. My Dad was an elementary school principal and loved his job. He always worked extra jobs to support our family. My mother was also employed in the school district as a school nurse. My Dad took a lot of pride in his work and was really good at what he did. When it came time for me to go to college he was emphatic that I not pursue a teaching career. He always said that you did not do the job for the money because it just wasn't there. The main thing that he emphasized was that he knew that with the retirement system in place that he would at the very least be able to maintain his existing life style after retirement. I was able to witness this after both he and my mom retired. Even though I did not go into the education field I am married to a Jr.Hi. teacher who is just a couple of years from retiring herself. I can tell you that today's teacher do not have the same outlook on retirement as my Dad had. They know that they will be taking a substantial reduction in take home pay once retired. They know that without additional savings or other support that there lifestyles will drastically change. They know that their health care cost will continue to rise making their net take home pay even less. This health care cost are already taking a huge bite of their pay increases (if any increase is given). It continues to amaze me how our government leaders continue to take advantage of our educators and not to give them greater support. There was a time that I had wished that my Dad had not discouraged me from becoming a teacher. However, it seems that he really understood the industry and was just looking out for me the best he could.

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    4. It IS sad! For years, parents who were educators were thrilled when their children chose the same profession because they knew their children would experience the joy of teaching and would know and honor the responsibility that comes with it. Times have changed, for sure, and it is devastating in so many ways.
      I REFUSE to give up, though. TRS has 1.5 MILLION members (active and retired). Can you imagine how powerful that force would be if more of us would STAND UP, SPEAK UP, and VOTE??? The snowball is definitely beginning to roll. Once we gain momentum, WATCH OUT, TEXAS LEGISLATORS!

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    5. Unknown #1 - "The divide" was exactly what I expected. The four who are TRS members (Dick Nance, Dolores Ramirez, Nannette Sissney, and Dr. Greg Gibson) voted for a 7.35% rate. That was defeated. The other five then voted for a 7.25% rate. It was a 5-4 split, but with a simple majority, it passed. :-(

      Unknown #2: You began your comment with, "...the information provided just breaks my heart." That is how I feel every day when I read story after story about how retired public ed employees are suffering. I remember when I started teaching, my friends with children ENCOURAGED their children to go into teaching. Sadly, by the time I retired, the majority of my friends did the same as your dad--DIScouraged their children from teaching. And I can honestly say they all did so with sadness because they still saw teaching as an honorable career with a huge, but incredible, responsibility. They just realize that so many of today's elected officials do NOT see public ed employees as honorable professionals. The mere fact that they would think THEY deserve better healthcare than WE do (not equal...BETTER) after serving 8-12 years when we dedicated our entire career to the children of this state says it all! It's a sad day, that's for sure!

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    1. Wow! Thanks! I taught for 29 years because I love education and felt honored to educate my students. I did so with PROMISES, and I expect those promises to be kept for all of us!

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  3. Thanks hope they can do something for us other than increase premiums/deductibles & lowering our pensions. This really sucks for all of us. Thank you for your time & commitment.

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    1. I am completely convinced that until MANY, MANY more of us get involved in the fight, we can expect more of the same!

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    2. Interesting Chris. I see that you say promises when teaching. I never received a piece of paper which gave the percentages of retirement, the percentages of deductibles and exactly what we were to receive upon retirement. The miliitary saw a 300% increase in premiums, 200% increase in prescription deductibles and they were given a signed paper stating their benefits upon retirement. I agree that people need to get in the fight, but please do research first on what specifically was promised and in what % amounts.

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    3. We expected to receive the same kind of treatment as the ERS. We were assured we would have healthcare insurance. We never expected them to make it so expensive, that It would put some of us in poverty. This is shameful on the part of Texas and one of the main reasons I'm leaving this state. The state government has become so horrible over so many years, they don't even resemble a true governing body. ALL they care about is money. They don't care if the schools are funded. They don't care if the retired teachers all fall below the poverty level. They DON'T care about Texans. Period.

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    4. Oh way to level the playing field for all is universal healthcare. We are more than 50 years behind the times on this. We need everyone covered

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    5. Wish the "unknown" people would put your names. It's so much easier to communicate with people than with "unknowns."
      That's the thing about promises. We didn't ask for them on paper. We believed them! We trusted them! I went to the TRS office in Austin the summer before I retired. I sat with an adviser and went over my pension and my healthcare costs. Only after that did I finalize my decision to retire because I figured out my budget. Now, five years later, it is completely different! I would understand it if the Texas Legislature had, out of necessity, made these changes to TRS and ERS; however, it's more than difficult to swallow when THEIR insurance stayed at a $0 deductible and a $0 monthly premium while ours has become unaffordable for so many.

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  4. I hate the way the ERS plan has continued to remain inexpensive with fabulous benefits while TRS Care has gone down the tubes. So not right!!

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    1. Honestly, I don't begrudge the state employees who have great benefits as I am sure they were promised this, too. However, we should have what they have! And to think our legislators live under THEIR plan instead of under OURS is insane!

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    2. It isn't just the legislators. All the people who regulate education and our benefits have ERS as well. Teachers are second class citizens.

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    4. Exactly! Even TRS employees have ERS!

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    5. As a State Employee who has six years in TRS, I feel that all TRS employees should get what they were promised, a good retirement and benifits. Both ERS and TRS employees are underpaid for the work that they do and we have not had a raise in years (aside for the one where they gave us a raise to pay for the increase in retirement contribution a few years ago), but what they are doing with your insurance is just wrong.


      I have wondered why won't the other 94% of TRS school districts start paying into Social Security so you guys can have both? Wouldn't that solve some of the issue as far as what you will get at retirement? It kills me each month when they take ERS retirement and SS out of my check which is below teacher starting pay, but when I retire I get both.

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    6. "Anonymous"--thank you for understanding our plight. I talk A LOT about #ERSvsTRS , but I assure you, I do NOT want what has happened to us to happen to those of you on ERS. I want us to have healthcare as good as yours!
      I also completely agree when it comes to social security. I have all of my quarters, but if things stay the way they are now, when I turn 65, because of the WEP, I will not receive my full social security benefits--YET, I have had to pay into it the same as everyone else who DOES get full benefits.

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  5. We need to do more than just watch a video feed. It's time to let members of the TRS Board know how we feel. It is not to late.

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  6. This is so wrong. Please let us all know of ways to get our voices heard.

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  7. Teachers, active AND retired, need to stop contributing to the campaigns of ALL incumbents and vote against them. Since they are declaring war on us, they don't deserve our support. Not enough were primaried. They all must go so the message is delivered.

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    1. We do NOT want to vote out those who DO support us! Look on the home page of Texans for Public Education (https://www.texansforpubliceducation.com/) Scroll down to RATINGS. They did extensive research on all of the incumbents and their opponents, studying their voting records, their affiliations, etc. Each was rated as "UNFRIENDLY, NEUTRAL, or FRIENDLY" to public education (including public ed employees). It is CRITICAL for us to keep the FRIENDLY legislators in while WORKING HARD to get the UNFRIENDLY legislators OUT, starting with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in November!!!!!

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    2. Every time a teacher or ex teacher votes for someone such as Dan Patrick or Abbott is making sure we don't receive reasonable costs in healthcare. They don't care. Just witness what the special session accomplished? Not anything close to what we needed. It was just a ploy to make some teachers or ex teachers believe they were doing something when they didn't.

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    3. Actually, Susan, during the Special Session, they reduced the proposed $3000 deductible for individual to $1500. Certainly, that is still $1100 more (!!!!!) than it was prior to the 2017 Legislative Session AND $1500 more than their own $0 deductible, but it is half of what they originally made it. They also reduced the costs for members who have children with challenges.
      PLEASE understand I am not COMPLIMENTING them; rather, I am saying the Special Session made what they have done to us a LITTLE bit better.
      UNTIL MANY more of the 1.5 MILLION TRS members rise up and join us, we can expect more of the same!

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  8. We will have to be sure and vote these people OUT OF OFFICE! They are not helping us; they are helping themselves!

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  9. 1. Call and/or write to your legislators. Please make your voice be heard.
    2. Vote them out.

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  10. Is there a link to this Friday's live TRS session?

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    1. http://trs.mediasite.com/mediasite/Play/496d2ecf590341c1af4f711d5cc379c61d

      It starts at 8:30 a.m.
      Here is the meeting packet: https://www.trs.texas.gov/Pages/board_materials.aspx

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  11. Arizona, Colorado, West Virginia and Kentucky have all staged teacher walk out to force their state governements to give them better benefits and raises!

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    1. Maybe it is time for Texas teachers to strike. New York teachers do and the elected listen!

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    2. Our greatest problem, next to so many legislators who do NOT support public education or public education employees, is that so few of US are ENGAGED! THERE IS POWER IN NUMBERS, and as long as there is just a small group of us STANDING UP, SPEAKING OUT, ENGAGING OTHERS, and VOTING, we can expect this to continue!

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    3. I am out of town, and I would be there today if it were possible. There is no doubt in my mind that plenty of teachers voted for the very people who put us into this situation. That's SO wrong. Teachers should know better than anyone. Yet, it keeps happening. If we can't educate teachers, then who else is going to stand up for us? It is truly alarming. These people need to be voted OUT.

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  12. Vote them out....

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    1. STAND UP! SPEAK UP! GET OTHERS ENGAGED! VOTE!

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    2. I feel like the women and men who were made to have sex so they could get a part, a job, and get paid...Me,Too! I agree that the more we support those who don't support us - democrate or republician - the more we are underpaid or not paid like the women actresses who get less pay than the male actors. Maybe we need those groups to join with us and get the lead out of some of the pants or dresses of those in State Government. We should mass tweet Trump, and see if he can make some business sense out of this mess in Texas. I was and am proud to be a teacher and work with children, but if I was to strike or walk out as a retired teacher, what else can they do to me. Sounds like we will need to find a state job to have benefits we were promised when I started teaching. Teachers and others should find themselves a job that pays state benefits and leave teaching...what a mess that would be. Delete what you feel is inappropriate as I am retired and mad as H___. Arlington is voting on term limits for our city council in Nov. Think we should do the same thing for our State Legislature. And when they leave office, their benefits go back to what they were before they were elected!

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    3. Elections are term limits. What about the legislators who DO support us fully. I would hate for them to be out of office because of term limits!
      I am mad, too...and sad...and in disbelief. However, I am up for the fight!!! We have to keep gaining momentum. We only have three full months left before the General Election and then two months before the 2018 Legislative Session to be LOUD AND CLEAR!

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  14. We are not allowed to strike or walk out. We will be immediately terminated.

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    1. While I was teaching, and even in retirement, I have been amazed at educators' (and our support staff, since they normally feel even more threatened) willingness to sit back and ALLOW things to happen to them. THERE IS POWER IN NUMBERS! It is far more dangerous for one or two to stand up and to be the spokespersons for the group. Imagine if THE GROUP stood up and said, "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!"
      I will ALWAYS say that until THAT happens, we may as well learn to live with having our contracts breached, and the promises made to us throughout our careers broken!

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    2. How could they possibly terminate 320,000 teachers, en masse? Ridiculous...

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    3. I believe it is called The Right to Work act, which means if we strike, we lose our jobs. Not sure if that is the correct wording but it is close.

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    4. https://www.texastribune.org/2018/04/05/texas-public-school-teachers-strike-union-oklahoma/

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  15. I love your blog!! We should talk someday. Bayareahouston.net johncoby@sbcglobal.net.

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    1. Thank you!! I love your combination--commentary, activism, and wit! We should!

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  16. The guy who picks up dead dogs along the highway for TxDot has better health insurance than I do and I helped his children get a quality education so they would not have to do his job.

    Is asking for equality with state employees asking for too much?

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    1. I don't begrudge them for having promises made to them, kept. But what is good for the legislator is good for the educator!

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  17. I have good friends on both sides of this situation. I am happy for the ones who have the good part and sad for those of us who choose to get the bad side, thinking surely we would not be treated badly, we supported them for many years...we were wrong. The leaders of the great State of Texas who ignore the importance of our plight and do not try to help in any way-----do not need to be re-elected.

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    1. AMEN! We must get LOUDER and STRONGER NOW! We have a General Election coming up in November AND a legislative session coming up in January!

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  18. As long as teachers and retired teachers and their families keep voting a certain party into power, we will be ignored. This certain party would dearly love to kill public education and privatize it all.

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    1. In Texas, we actually have "friends" on both sides of the aisle! That is why it is critical that we choose the candidate, rather than the party!
      If you haven't done so already, be sure to check out the RATINGS on texansforpubliceducation.com (their home page). :-)

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  19. Texas teachers have to be one of the largest groups in Texas. I have always said there is power in numbers,pand as long as we sit back and take it...they will continue to let us. We need to band together as this large group and demand to be heard. Retired teacher...

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  20. So sad for our teachers. This hurts their pocket book so bad. They play such a valuable role teaching the future of America, and we are robbing them and stomping on them. Let's vote out those legislators that don't support our teachers. Let's fight. Can we change legislation in 2019?

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    1. We can FOR SURE, IF MANY more of the 1.5 MILLION TRS members GET ENGAGED, along with non-public-ed employees and retirees who support us! We can FOR SURE!

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  21. If I recall correctly, Texas teachers did not have the 6.25% of Social Security taxes deducted from their paychecks and that is why they are not eligible for Social Security unless they have worked "outside the system". It may not be of any consolation to you, but ALL RETIREES are finding their medical costs to FAR EXCEED what they had expected because of OBAMACARE hidden penalties & rising costs on retirees. I personally pay $536.90 a month for coverage with a $3750 deductible--so your costs seem low to me. While you are looking into why Texas Retired Teachers have not received any increases in the past 14 years---has the Pension Fund NOT BEEN FUNDED? Who is responsible for investing the Pension Funds? There may be some group who has taken advantage of the Teacher Pension Funds---so explore all possibilities. There may be something bigger going on---especially since other State Employees seem to be getting a better deal.

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    1. A great deal of teachers work(ed) in jobs outside of the school system and have paid into Social Security. Some had entire careers and earned their 40 quarters only to lose the right to collect after becoming teachers. Many many teachers work side jobs just to make ends meet during teaching and some will finish earning their 40 quarters after retiring from teaching. We have a great deal deducted from our paychecks every month for decades only to find we might live in poverty after retirement. Am I wrong or are there people who never work a day outside the home yet receive SS benefits from a deceased spouse? Not teachers....

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    2. I think our retirement had too much invested in Enron years ago and that turned out to be a huge fiasco. After Enron went belly up, TRS tightened up its retirement requirements after loosening them several times. Just a thought.

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    3. Renee-thank you for your thoughtful questions! Most Texas teachers have never had the OPTION to pay into social security while teaching; however, as "Unknown #1" responded, those of us who have worked other jobs and have paid into social security at the same level as everyone else, will NOT be able to collect our full ss benefits because of the Windfall Elimination Provision, which is a FEDERAL issue!
      You may not believe this, but TRS is actually one of the highest-performing pension funds in the NATION, and perhaps even internationally. This year, the rate of return was 12 percent, which is almost unheard of. However, based on market-study assumptions, the decision was made to lower the rate of return.
      So all public ed employees--NOT just teachers, but EVERYONE who works (or who worked in) our public schools are living with this healthcare inequality, little to no chance of ever seeing a COLA, AND the ss inequality (WEP AND what is known as GPO).

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  22. If you are at least 65, you should call me about other Medicare Advantage Plans and Medicare Supplement Plans, they are much better, I know I have one and I am a Licensed Agent. Steve Vitola 210 842 4432 stevevitola@gmail.com

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  23. "Ninety-five percent of Texas school districts don’t contribute to Social Security.” What this means is that those who worked their entire careers in Texas public schools will not receive any SS benefits. Those of us who have worked outside of the public schools will receive benefits, but they are far less than we would be receiving if we were not members of TRS because of a federal loophole."
    I was under the impression that if you ever worked for the State you could no longer draw Social Security, even if you paid into it before teaching. Has that changed? What is the loophole?

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    1. But, these teachers didn't pay in and should have been putting that money in a private account. They would be better off than us. I purposely chose a district who participated in Social Security.

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    2. I have all my quarters because of side jobs I had while teaching and jobs I have now in retirement; nevertheless, because of the Windfall Elimination Provision, I will not be able to collect my full social security benefits. So why do I have to PAY them?

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  24. What Renee said. I work for the city and we are being required to vote for how we will address our Pension issue. We have a large unfunded pension liability and they are expecting it to run out in 2053. Their solution is to increase our contributions and increase the city contributions and lower the expected rate of return. I agree that they need to lower the expected rate of return because they made the assumption of a higher rate of return during the 90s when stock market was booming. Part of the states problem is the same as the cities in that they estimated a greater rate of return than what they would actually receive. The stock market crashes in 2008 and 2011 affected all of this as well. I agree that teachers should be treated better and you should have the same benefit as any state employee. I strongly advise you to look at the state CAFR (Comprehensive Annual Financial Report) and look over it with an accountant to help you understand what the numbers mean. The more knowledge you have the more fuel you have and the bigger the impact you will have when you go to your legislators with an alternative. I have been working with a handful of campaigns this year and it’s pretty upsetting as an accountant myself to see so many people running for Office that make promises they can’t keep because they don’t know how to read a financial statement. We have to educate ourselves and we have to educate our legislators.

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    1. Thanks, Casey!
      The disturbing thing about TRS is that their rate of return was HIGH (12%) this year, yet the "assumption" was that they needed to lower it all the way to 7.25%. But did ERS lower theirs to that? No. Theirs is 7.5%. So much inequity between TRS and ERS.

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    2. Thanks Chris. Yes it sounds like they made an overly ambitious assumption if they assumed the ROR was 12%. The other thing is that even if they only lowered their expected ROR to 7.50% vs. 7.25%, they’re still going to have to answer to it in the long run via interperiod equity. Sounds like they are benefiting today and the expense of tomorrow.

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    3. I don't have the words. It's one blow after another.

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  25. I believe as Public school teachers in this great state of Texas, we are considered to be employees of a school district as well as the state. I will never understand why we are treated so differently when it comes to our retirement benefits. The lives we impact, and the time and money we invest in children have a lasting impact on society; and for the majority of us, it is a passion and our life’s calling. We should not suffer in our retirement years because we chose such a noble profession. Sadly it is due to our state leaders who have chosen to provide us with inadequate benefits, especially when compared to their own! Time for a real change...time for leaders who will finally take a positive stand for teachers!

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    1. EXACTLY! And time for MANY more of the 1.5 MILLION TRS members to STAND UP, GET ENGAGED, and VOTE and for those who support us to join us!

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  26. Insurance deductibles & premiums are very high for everyone not just employees covered under TRS. I work in an industry not affiliated with schools & my deductible is $3450. My monthly premium is not cheap either. If my deductible was only $1500, I would be thrilled! Also if I was under the TRS plan at retirement, I would roll it out to a self directed IRA at a financial firm to make a higher return.

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    1. Bjh and "Unknown"--trust me, my colleagues and I feel for you. We do. The thing is, we chose this career and were promised, from the start, that we would have this defined benefit and affordable healthcare when we retired. If the state's other retirement system--which includes retired LEGISLATORS--can have a $0 (YES, ZERO!) deductible for healthcare AND a $0 (YES, ANOTHER ZERO) monthly premium, why is ours sooo different?

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  27. I see you are removing dissenting opinions. That invalidates your stance.

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    1. "Anonymous"--I am not sure to whom you are directing this comment, but I assure you I have not removed a single comment. I would only remove a comment if it included cursing OR if it threatened someone. I have seen no such comments. Be careful about assuming. You know what they say....

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  28. The option to buy into Medicare for all. Just imagine how great it would be to get affordable healthcare. Paying for Medicare before 65 is NOT socialism. It's just buying in early, we are all going to get it soon enough.

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    1. I absolutely agree with this.

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    2. Actually, though I do not believe in socialism, overall, I do believe in socialized medicine.

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  29. Why are State employees held at a higher tier than teachers and coaches? We should be treated the same!

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    1. That is the question of the day. I believe it's because our legislators are covered under THEIR plan! If the legislators were covered under TRS, I can almost guarantee you that things would look VERY different.
      That being said, TRS has 1.5 MILLION members. Where are they in this fight?

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  30. Can you publish the list of congressmen or women that we can write to about these issues?

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    1. "Unknown"--do you mean state legislators on the TRS issue or members of Congress regarding WEP and GPO (social security)?

      Delete
  31. Sadly, the disparity between the benefits of TRS and ERS is quite similar to those between U S Congress members and American citizens. No official should be allowed to vote for their own salary or health care provisions. As someone who earned Social Security benefits and a TRS pension, I fall under the 2/3 Social Security deduction because TRS is considered a pension. Our state does not "permit" striking, but I truly believe our voices will not be heard and honored as long as the only "weapon" we have is paper and pen.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think paper and pen and phone calls are important, but nothing like bodies in the streets. Look just what happened for the teachers who were allowed to strike.

      Delete
    2. "Anonymous"--AMEN!
      I totally agree, Susan!

      Delete
  32. Hey ya'll, if it helps, I am teaching Chinese kids English full time from the comfort of home. You can do it as little or as much as you like. I would be happy to walk you through the application process. http://t.vipkid.com.cn?refersourceid=e01&refereeId=8359492. samdfwalker@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  33. Keep voting for the same people and expect the same results. Not that complicated.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. EXACTLY! And keep staying home, complaining and crying without getting engaged, too! :-(

      Delete
  34. This is so unfair and wrong. We need to change this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We do! And those of us in the fight are waiting for the rest of the 1.5 MILLION TRS members to wake up and join us!

      Delete
  35. "Throughout our careers, we were promised affordable healthcare when we retired." This statement is simply false. Any literature associated with health care for retirees specifically warned that funding was temporary.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Anonymous"--why is it that all of the people crying "false" are anonymous?
      Anyway...when I went to Austin the summer before I retired, I assure you I was told I would have affordable healthcare. Throughout my career in teaching, I assure you I was told that though our paychecks may not be large, we would have a defined benefit in retirement and affordable healthcare, too. I did not make my decision to retire until I knew I could afford to do so.
      So how do you explain the fact that there is no problem funding ERS? How do you explain the Texas Legislature appropriating DOUBLE the amount of money to ERS that they did to TRS in the 2017 Legislative Session, even though ERS has HALF the members?

      Delete
  36. I am seriously thinking of dropping my TRS/AETNA/Humana policy and moving my coverage to United through AARP. I was an administrative secretary so I paid in to and receive a check each month from Social Security. My Medicare premium is deducted from that check. Any medical expenses MUST be through Humana. NOTHING can be filed through Medicare. So I pay for Medicare but can never use it. Please tell my why I should stay with TRS and their high deductibles?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If I am understanding you correctly, I think you have it backwards. You should have a Humana Medicare advantage plan and Medicare pays first.

      Delete
    2. Medicare pays nothing. It goes through Humana only leaving u paying 20%. Before Jan, we had Medicare n Aetna. It was wonderful. What we have now is inferior.

      Delete
    3. Carol--I know A LOT of people 65 and over who have left TRS Care.

      Delete
  37. You said police officers are part of this. Do you mean the ones that work for the school districts or city police? If city, then are firefighters part of this as well? Just curious. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Police who work for city of Houston for example have a pension and pay into social security. When my dad died , my mom collected pension and small social security.

      Delete
    2. There are TWO social security issues that face us--GPO and WEP. Many people are not aware of these. Here is an FAQ page about them: https://ssfairness.com/gpo-wep-faq/

      Delete
  38. Hi! I can't find my SBOE rep in the list. The Tx website says my Dist. is 7, and my rep David Bradley, but that's not who's listed for Dist. 7 in the PDF. I did a ctrl+f to search, and Bradley was not found in the entire document.

    The person listed for Dist 7 is listed as friendly, but it's not who the state website says is my rep.

    Any ideas? (We are in a very rural area, and live in one county, but pay school taxes in another one, 12+ miles away and where my kids attended public school.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do you mean the Texans for Public Education list?
      This should tell you exactly who your reps are: https://fyi.capitol.texas.gov/Home.aspx

      Delete
  39. This conversation should include the substitute teachers who are there as regulars & for many years. Social Security includes them. TRS has claimed we are getting or will be getting a pension. So when we decide to take the small savings they force you to have it will hurt our social security benefit! Years ago TRS claimed we were not part of an so-called pension. The payroll departments will tell the subs the same thing, no you are not included. But tell that to social security! No the substitutes who are working today have never been advised of such an arrangement. Many schools can't function without the devoted substitutes yet we are on the lower end of all. Is anyone going to take a look into what's going on in this area?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi "Unknown"--actually, this is the first time I have ever heard of this. I will have to ask some of the state association members about this?
      I TOTALLY agree that we would not be able to function without our subs!
      Stay tuned. It likely won't be right away, but I WILL come back to this!

      Delete
  40. How does one determine if they are ERS or TRS??

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do you work, or did you work, for a public school system in Texas?
      Have you ever held another STATE job--like TxDOT or any other Texas entity?

      Delete
  41. I have discussed this issue with ERS retirees and their comments all come back to teachers have never stood up for themselves. They would go before the Legislature in large numbers when issues came up that concerned their insurance, retirement, or other benefits. Teachers stay in their classrooms and continue on teaching. Our dedication to our students has made the Legislature believe they can walk all over us. We as retirees must take action in large numbers. Active members need to take note of the results from Oklahoma educators. We may need to make the Legislature uncomfortable. I am not in favor of labor unions, but we must stand up for our profession.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. AMEN! AMEN! AMEN! ERS has HALF the number of members TRS has. WHERE ARE THEY?

      Delete
  42. We teachers have integrity and we love our job, that's why we don't fight for our rights, because we are fighting for the rights and well been of our students. We all need to stand together and help our retired teachers and eventually help ourselves, we all be there at one point.

    ReplyDelete
  43. Sad situation. My husband is a TRS retiree as a 27 year maintenance man. I understand the government will never pass anything as they can't afford the impact it will have on the state budget with all the teachers and retirees. They only look like they are interested is TRS, but actually only themselves.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And now, because so many of our members are SILENT, they don't even bother to LOOK interested! That is exactly why we need to get the snowball rolling!

      Delete
  44. We, as teachers, are always so absorbed by our lesson plans, conferences, trainnings, readings, grading homeworks, etc. that barely have time to think, investigate, process , and analyze this kind of things, untill we want to retire and it is too late. We end up hitting our face to the wall.
    Thank you for making it very simple to understand. I wish there were more people half the concerned you are about all of us. God bless you !!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, and I feel your pain, BUT....those of us in this fight canNOT get it done without the rest of you!!! TRS has 1.5 MILLION members! IMAGINE the mountains we could move if MANY, MANY MORE of us were ENGAGED!

      Delete
  45. Teachers have great power when they stand together for something that affects them (us) all. Come together in November, teachers and retirees, and vote BLUE to get these guys out of office! We need legislators in our corner! Use your voice! VOTE!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Actually, I do not support the "vote blue" or "vote red" philosophy. As you can see on the ratings---based on A LOT of research--put out by Texans for Public Education, we have FRIENDS on both sides of the aisle and enemies on both sides of the aisle. That is why we are fighting for BLOCK VOTING! It is nonpartisan and is based on RECORDS! :-)

      Delete
    2. Which Republicans are on "our" side? Haven't found them...

      Delete
    3. BillM--go to texansforpubliceducation.com. On their home page, you will find "OUR RATINGS." After extensive research, they rated ALL candidates/incumbents "friendly," "neutral," or "unfriendly" to public education (including to public ed employees). You will see! :-)

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  46. I currently work at a school district and my family deductible is 7,500. Max out of pocket for family is 14,300. Co-insurance 70%.

    I don't find it surprising deductibles and monthly costs are increasing for retirees. Costs have skyrocketed for employees still active in the workforce. What is surprising is ERS retirees are not seeing increases as well. Something is definitely fishy there. To maintain those low deductibles for ERS retirees must cost a pretty penny.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. EXACTLY! And how do you explain the Texas Legislature appropriating DOUBLE the amount of money for ERS than for TRS when they have HALF the number of members??
      Again--TRS has 1.5 MILLION members! WHERE are they?

      Delete
  47. Add my name to disgruntled Texas employees who have to get stabbed in the back by TRS. There's no way in HELL that I can afford simple yearly medical bills through TRS. Maybe I need to give up and get on MEDICAID and let the government pay for it all and I get everything for free. I worked as a school secretary for 25 years. For WHAT???? Again, please add my name and remarks to the growing list of TRS employees.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How about if we add your name to the list willing to STAND WITH US, GET ENGAGED, GET OUT THE VOTE in November, and FIGHT HARD during the 2019 Legislative Session? When THAT happens, we can expect to see MUCH better treatment!

      Delete
  48. We must remember that our legislature, not TRS, has created the funding problem, and TRS is working with what money they have been given by the state to make things work for teachers. When it comes to health care benefits, advocates say Texas teachers are stuck (in the year) 2002. That’s when state lawmakers created the plan known as TRS-ActiveCare. The teacher health insurance program, which is run by the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, requires the state to contribute $75 per employee toward monthly health care premiums. Since the program went into effect, employees’ share of premiums have more than doubled, while the state’s contribution to teacher’s health care has remained the same. Under the TRS-ActiveCare program, districts are also required to put a minimum of $150 per employee per month toward health insurance premiums, with the option of contributing more - that can be difficult for districts as education budgets are squeezed by the state law makers. Also Texas is dead last in teacher retirement funding and puts a little more than the minimum into the Teacher Retirement System. Among states that only offer a pension plan for teachers, Texas is dead last when it comes to funding its pension programs — by a lot. For years, Texas only paid 6 percent — the constitutional minimum — into the Teacher Retirement System. It now only pays 6.8 percent, according to the National Association of State Retirement Administrators. Read more on this link:
    https://www.texastribune.org/2018/04/20/texas-teachers-employee-benefits-dead-last-retirement-funding/?utm_campaign=trib-social&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook&utm_content=1524861060

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree with you 99% !! I do not agree, though, that the TRS board needed to go all the way down to 7.25%.
      GREAT job on the facts!!!

      Delete
  49. It is articles like this that make me wonder if I should give up my life long dream of becoming a teacher and find a job that offers good benefits and pay. While I do not live in, not have plans to live in Texas, I feel like this is an teachers across the nation are facing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is how I would answer that, Kyle. What is your passion? If your passion is to teach, by all means TEACH! However, don't do like most of the 1.5 MILLION TRS members and sit at home, silent, just taking what is dealt to you. As you are teaching, GET INFORMED! GET ENGAGED! VOTE! ADVOCATE!
      :-)

      Delete
  50. Is the 2.3% x number of years still the same or is that changing too?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Before the official business of the TRS board meeting today, they made a point of talking about the rumors swirling and specifically mentioned that the multiplier is NOT changing!

      Delete
  51. As far as I`m concerned Greg can roll his wheelchair to the house after the next election! We need to know who to vote for in the next election. I`m inclined to boot all of them out but there must be a few who will help us! Keep us informed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Please go to texansforpubliceducation.com. Scroll down on the home page until you see "OUR RATINGS." On the list, you will see the names of those running and their opponents. After extensive research, all were rated based on their record when it comes to public education (which includes public ed employees). We want to GET OUT or KEEP OUT all "unfriendly" candidates and KEEP or BRING IN all of the "friendly" candidates. It is a nonpartisan effort.
      :-)

      Delete
  52. ERS covers all correctional officers; TRS needs to give teachers a better deal for sure, but in order to have people work at the prisons, there has to be incentive and a good deal on insurance is about the only thing going for the prison system. People have a calling to be teachers, not so much to be prison guards.
    Just saying why there is such a disparity there perhaps ...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Actually, I do not begrudge our state employees/retirees their/your benefits. I just stand strong in the belief that we deserve the same! :-)

      Delete
  53. I work for a district that pays into both. I have 21 years of “significant income” in the social security system. I will still not qualify for my full SS benefits. The windfall provision act requires 30 years of significant income. And as a woman who chose to stay at home or work part time when my daughter was young I have several years where my income fell below “significant”. So even though I have earned my 40 quarters in SS I will be penalized for my “windfall government pension”. John Cornyn basically said too bad. I offered to trade my pension with his but got no response.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. EXACTLY! We are under attack at both the state AND federal level. Who ever thought....?

      Delete
  54. The amount of misinformation in this is horrible. Proper research truly needs to be done before slamming one of the strongest funds in the nation.

    The lack of funding for TRS Care from our legislators is the issue. Period!! The executive director of TRS has has been attempting to get response from legislators on this for years.

    The retirement system itself has provided retirment for hundreds of thousands of retirees and their beneficiaries. Far exceeding what any of us have contributed. Where else can you retire before 65 and be guaranteed a lifetime monthly payment? Yes, we may not have recieved the raises we all hoped for but all these years later, you can count on that deposit being there. Put your pencil to paper....how long did it take to extinguish what you actually contributed? Less than 5 years....If you think you can manage to put money somewhere else and get better than that rate of return, you're in denial.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Mr. or Ms. "Anonymous"--Please tell me what part of the blog post is "misinformation" so I can correct it?!
      I do not blame TRS or the TRS board (except for the vote today when I do NOT believe they needed to lower a fund that had a 12% return this year needed to be lowered to 7.25%) for the nightmare we are living. Sorry, but our healthcare situation is a nightmare. We KNOW it is because of the Texas Legislature and their failure to properly fund it and the discrepancies between how they fund ERS and how they fund TRS.
      Again, please tell me what is "misinformation."
      Thank you, Anonymous.

      Delete
  55. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  56. I taught for 30 years and I can't afford my medication unless I go to Mexico to get it. I can't afford to get sick. I'm sure the majority of the retired teachers in Texas feel this way. I feel like our Texas Legislators want us to just die quicker. I always felt when I was a teacher if we ever questioned authority or those we were being paid by that our contracts would not be renewed. It's very sad that we, as a group, are thought so little of when we have worked very hard in our fields to make sure that our students did well.

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    Replies
    1. I completely agree, Reta, but I also know that teachers and public ed employees, as a whole, have been almost silent while other groups FIGHT for their benefits! UNTIL MANY more of the 1.5 MILLION TRS members RISE UP, GET ENGAGED, VOTE, and FIGHT, we can expect more of the same!

      Delete
  57. I suggest talking with Shawn McClelland with Clearwater Benefits. He is local (Boerne), genuinely cares, and has healthcare options that helps people in these circumstances. 210-379-8066

    ReplyDelete
  58. It's only going to get worse the more republicans are voted into office. I remember many white, female teachers in the Houston area voting against their best interest because of political propaganda and peer pressure. These yee-haws voted for Dumbya instead of Gore, and likewise in state elections, because they didn't want to be associated with democrats. Now, they're crying about their high healthcare costs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Anonymous"--if you go to texansforpubliceducation.com, and scroll down to "Our Ratings" on the home page, you will see how all of the incumbents and their opponents have been rated. T4PE did extensive research before rating these candidates. You will find we have "FRIENDS" on the Republican side, too! That is why the push for us to BLOCK VOTE for public-ed-friendly candidates is so critical! We must get informed on who is and isn't fighting for us and vote with that as our guide!

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