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: 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.