Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Letter to My Senator Regarding Texas TRS

There is some big legislation pending regarding the Texas Teacher Retirement System. Below is the letter I just sent to my state senator. Fellow Texas educators, have you been following this legislation? If not, you should be, and you should be making your voice heard! A very good update can be found here: Find out who represents you and follow links to their web pages where you can email them. Phone calls are important, too!

Dear Senator Schwertner,

As your constituent in Senate District 5, I am writing to ask you to vote NO on SB 1458 as currently written. If passed in its current form, approximately 50% of current Teacher Retirement System members will have an average of 10 years added to the years of service required before they become eligible for full retirement.

I am proud to have served the children of Texas for the past 20 years and look forward to serving them for many more. I appreciate the legislature’s work to ensure the actuarial soundness of TRS, but believe the state should not change retirement eligibility for veteran educators like myself. Although many TRS members choose to work past the age of minimum retirement, we should still have the option to retire with full benefits after reaching the “Rule of 80”, in which our age plus years of service adds up to 80, instead of having to wait until we are 62 years old.  The “Rule of 80” has applied to us for most of our professional careers, and this rule should not be changed on us mid-stream. It is my understanding that in the private sector, a change such as this would be illegal. Although legal in the public sector, I believe it would be unethical.

I understand that one of the goals for increasing the actuarial soundness of TRS is to give a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) to currently retired teachers because a COLA has not been given in over ten years. I also understand that the COLA provided for if this bill were to pass is not guaranteed, and it would be a maximum of $100 per month only for members who retired in 1994 or earlier. That seems like a very small benefit to a small percentage of retirees in exchange for the substantial change in active members’ retirement eligibility requirements that will take place if this bill passes in its current form.

Please work with Senator Duncan to improve SB 1458. If necessary, raise the retirement age for members entering the system from Fall 2013 forward. I would also advocate for an increase in active members’ contribution percentage to improve the soundness of TRS.

As I ask for your help in improving SB 1458, I also want to ask you to support HB 1383 if it comes to a vote in the Senate. HB 1383 will raise the state contribution to TRS to 6.9% in FY 2014 and 7.4% in FY 2015 and has the support of over 100 representatives at this time. This is the type of measure which demonstrates that Texas values its education system and the dedicated professionals who are investing in Texas’s future every school day.

I would also ask you to support HB 103 if it comes to a vote in the Senate. This bill will authorize a one-time supplemental payment to current retired teachers. This also would demonstrate that our state values the men and women who faithfully educated generations of Texans.

I appreciate the positive education changes you and our legislature are working toward during this session, and thank you for taking time to consider my concerns for the future of the Teacher Retirement System and its members.