Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Numbers According to Governor Greg Abbott’s Staff

            February 18, Senator José Menéndez wrote a commentary in the San Antonio Express-News boldly asking Gov. Greg Abbott to call a Special Session to fix the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, which is the retirement system for all Texas public school employees, including bus drivers, custodians, teachers, classroom aides, secretaries, librarians, nurses, maintenance workers, school police officers, social workers, administrators, and cafeteria workers.  This is how  Sen. Menendez’s commentary begins:
Educators in my district are honest, hardworking public servants who make financial sacrifices by choosing a career in education over high-paying private sector jobs for which they easily qualify. They make the choice to become educators because they believe in giving back, they love children, and they want to help strengthen our future.
In exchange for their efforts in preparing our children, the state of Texas told its teachers they would receive a pension upon retirement that would provide quality, affordable health care coverage during the years following a lifetime of service.
Texas has not honored that promise, and now the future for some 270,000 retired educators is in jeopardy. This past session we approved a bill providing only about 70 percent of what was needed to keep the Teacher Retirement System, or TRS, health program solvent. That pushed a shortfall projected to reach $400 million by 2021, according to the San Antonio Express-News, onto the backs of retired teachers.

            February 19, Rep. Ryan Guillen followed suit:

            March 29, Rep. Terry Canales sent Gov. Abbott a formal letter seeking this same Special Session:

            In the ensuing months, calls, emails, Facebook posts, and tweets from those of us who are living the TRS nightmare and others who support us have been made/sent to Gov. Abbott’s office.  However….
            Last week, a friend of mine who is also a retired Texas teacher living the TRS Healthcare Nightmare, wanted to know how many people have contacted Gov. Abbott’s office requesting a Special Session regarding TRS.  She filed a Public Information Request that read, “I am asking for all totals received concerning requests for a Special Session specifically to address the TRS health care problems and costs by anyone who has TRS health insurance.  The totals should include phone calls, emails, texts, faxes, and mail received by the Governor’s office from January 1, 2018, until today’s date of July 12, 2018.”
            Today, she received this reply from Gov. Abbott’s office:

            A TOTAL of 106 messages in six months?  Are we really expected to believe this?  I have seen calls to action on several Facebook pages, on Twitter, and in private messages. 
            A TOTAL of 106 despite all of the media coverage?  Here is just a sampling:

From U.S. News December 8, 2018
From the Houston Chronicle January 1, 2018
From Fox 4 February 6, 2018
From the Austin American Statesman April 9, 2018
From the Abilene Reporter News April 14, 2018
From the Texas Tribune April 20, 2018
From CBS DFW April 23, 2018

            Retired public education employees are not the only ones suffering due to the TRS healthcare nightmare.  Many active public education employees in Texas are being subjected to UNaffordable TRS healthcare    , as well, and we all have Gov. Abbott, Lt. Gov. Patrick, and many members of the Texas Legislature to thank for it.  Take Kensley’s story, for example.  All one has to do is compare TRS to ERS, the retirement system for all OTHER state employees, including our legislators:

            To add to this insanity, July 11, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar sent out a press release titled Comptroller Raises Revenue Estimate by More than $2.8 BillionWhat excuse can Gov. Abbott make now for ignoring Sen. Menendez, ignoring Rep. Guillen, ignoring Rep. Canales, and ignoring the “106” citizens who have contacted his office?  Seriously, who is going to believe 106 people have contacted his office when the TRS website reads, “The Teacher Retirement System of Texas is the largest public retirement system in Texas, serving more than 1.5 million people”?  More than 1.5 million of us are being forced to live with broken promises from our legislators, promises made to us throughout our careers, and 106 of us have contacted his office?)
            POR FAVOR!

            Looks like we need to get LOUDER and STRONGER.  Please do not leave a message.  Please ask to speak to someone in the governor’s office and tell them you want your message RECORDED.  The office is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the number is 512-463-2000Here are more ways to contact Gov. Abbott’s office.

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)

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