Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Letter to My Representative 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 representative. 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: http://tcta.org/node/13403Find out who represents you and follow links to their web pages where you can email them. Phone calls are important, too!


Dear Representative Gonzales,

As your constituent in HD 52, I am writing to ask you to vote NO on HB 1884 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 Representative Callegari to improve HB 1884. 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 HB 1884, I also want to thank you for co-authoring HB 1383 which will raise the state contribution to TRS to 6.9% in FY 2014 and 7.4% in FY 2015. 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.

Thank you, too, for authoring HB 103 to 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.


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: http://tcta.org/node/13403. 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.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

I Love the Idea of Less-Paper/Paperless!

Photo Used With Permission from Stargardener on Flikr
Paper has challenged me for as long as I can remember. As paper accumulates in my life, both personal and professional, I'm always faced with questions. Do I need to keep this? If so, where and how? Readily accessible? Safely filled away? Will I remember I have it if/when I do need it?

Growing up, I was the kid in your class whose Trapper Keeper was always stuffed to overflowing. Most of the papers were in the right pockets, but about half-way through the year the poor notebook looked like it was going to explode. As an adult, I walk past a pile of mail in my house and wonder how it ever got that tall. I would give anything to get on a list somewhere that lets me say, "Please, don't send me any more advertising by mail. Ever!"

As a classroom teacher, I worried about how my paper-challenged life would impact my students. To compensate, I instituted routines in my room that included the kids always turning their papers into labeled baskets. When orienting my students to our classroom at the start of the year, one of the first things I told them was, "Always put your assignments in the basket for your class period. Late, on time, early, does not matter. If you ever put it on my desk, it is subject to being sucked in by a black hole." As the year progressed and they watched my desk become, well, a disaster, they understood the importance of following the procedures I had put in place. (My student paper management scheme worked; never lost an assignment. But I was still always stressed that I was going to lose one...)

I think I am a person of average intelligence, yet paper plagues me. In recent years, technology has helped me to overcome many of my issues with paper by allowing me to store documents electronically. And as search technologies get better and better, I can more easily find a document that I suddenly need when it becomes important months (or years) after I last accessed it. Even electronic filing of documents can get overwhelming, which is one of the reasons I started taking notes on my blog when I attend conferences. For some reason, I remember better when I write here, and because of tags and date organization, I can usually locate information quickly.

For quite selfish reasons, I'll admit, I would love to make my life as paperless as possible. Short of a few hand-written letters from people dear to me, I'd be ok if everything were electronic. And I would have LOVED to have taught in a paperless classroom! In addition to my own selfish motives, there is cost savings associated with using less paper, and it certainly helps our environment if we can chop down fewer trees.

Due to my desire to continue decreasing paper use in my life, I was very intrigued by the Paperless Classroom Project sponsored by WeAreTeachers. In this project, a 1st grade teacher was challenged to go paperless with her students for two weeks. She found great difficulties and some unforeseen positive benefits, not the least of which was increased use of technology in her classroom. I encourage you to read about her journey.

In conjunction with their Paperless Classroom Project and Earth Day, WeAreTeachers is sponsoring a Twitter Party on Monday, April 22nd, at 7:00 PM Eastern (6 Central - 5 Mountain - 4 Pacific) around the theme of reducing or eliminating the use of paper in the classroom. Without even knowing my dislike for paper, WeAreTeachers asked me to participate! I hope you can join us. If you RSVP at this site, you can also be eligible to win one of several prizes, including an iPad for your classroom! That will help you use less paper!

Have you found creative ways to reduce paper use in your classroom or do you have some ideas you would like to try? Please share in the comments below so we can all learn together.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...