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Some TFA members are enrolled in TRS for their retirement and the following provides information for those members. During the next legislative session there may be a need to do some phone calling in regard to this, and we will be notifying everyone when/if this happens so ORP members can support their TRS colleagues.

TRS and the Public Pension Fight – TSTA Preparing for 2013

First Meeting on TRS Retirement Fund in Lubbock This Week

Background

During the last legislative session, the legislature asked TRS to conduct a study of the TRS Trust Fund (retirement) and TRS Care and report its findings to the next session of the legislature. The TRS Board will have its first hearing on the TRS retirement fund in Lubbock on Thursday, February 16, beginning at 8 a.m. TRS will be hearing "invited testimony" from "experts" on Thursday and is encouraging public testimony at its March meeting in Austin.

However, the Lubbock meeting will be available on the web. TRS is providing “Ask a Question” feature for TRS meeting/webcast to allow Teacher Retirement System members, retirees, and beneficiaries to watch the Feb. 15-17 board meeting live via webcast. And they will also be able to ask questions during the Feb. 16 discussion about the retiree health care and pension plan study. The meeting will also be recorded and available for viewing on demand.

“Ask a Question” explained: http://tsta.org/sites/default/files/AskaQuestion-Lubbock_2_.pdf

Webcasts: http://www.trs.state.tx.us/global.jsp?page_id=/about/board_meeting_webcasts

During the last session, TSTA vigorously and successfully opposed changing the Teachers Retirement System of Texas’ defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan. The TRS Trust Fund, unlike many local pension plans that are in financial trouble due to poor administration, is considered actuarially sound and secure for both retirees and Texas taxpayers.

However, groups like the Texas Public Policy Foundation and “Texans for Public Pension Reform” (a group headed by a private investment manager who sees an opportunity to make a profit) plan to make public pensions a big issue next session. Many smaller municipal and county retirement systems do not have the kind of investment safeguards that TRS has. Unlike TRS, many smaller DB plans have continually and drastically changed their contribution and investment structure and have included COLAs when the plans were not actuarially sound. These county and municipal plans have failed to protect the future of their members, but the same cannot be said of TRS.

In short, TRS has been portrayed to be the poster-child for solid DB plans – not just in Texas, but around the country. We should expect a major push to change all DB plans to DC plans, but there are indications that TRS and ERS may be carved out of any reform legislation due to the performance and administration of their funds. However, TSTA and other groups will remain vigilant in our defense of our teachers’ retirement investments.

TSTA Presence at Lubbock TRS Meeting

TSTA staff will be present at the hearing and our local President, Cherie Jenkins of the Lubbock Education Association, will be joined by local TSTA leaders, TSTA-R members and other concerned citizens at a press conference on Thursday morning. TSTA has also produced "Don't Gamble With Our Retirement" signs that will be prominent at the meeting. And of course, we will update you after the meeting. The bottom line is simple: a defined benefit plan is better for both retirees and taxpayers. Here are the key elements of our message:

Don't Gamble With Our Retirement

* Most teachers do not get Social Security. The Teachers Retirement System of Texas is the only retirement nest egg that many teachers have. They have earned it through years of dedicated public service to Texas children.

* Teachers contribute more than half of the TRS premium - more than the state.

* TRS is a solid, actuarially sound pension plan. Replacing it with a defined contribution plan would result in less-secure benefits for retirees and higher administrative costs for government.

* A defined benefit plan attracts quality people to the teaching profession and encourages long-term service. It helps compensate Texas teachers for below-average pay.

* Switching to a defined contribution plan would increase teacher turnover, erode valuable experience in the classroom and increase training costs for school districts.

* TRS also provides school employees with disability and survivor benefits. A 401(k) plan would require state government or school districts to obtain these benefits from another source at a higher cost. Or, teachers would have to dig deeply into their own pockets to provide these benefits, further eroding their own modest incomes.

Ed Martin

TSTA Director of Public Affairs




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