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Hunter Grice

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MW 12-1:15

30 November 2017

Town Hall Report

Education is a huge key to the development of a society, state, country and just the whole

world in general. Everything named above should emphasize the importance of education

because without it development will be halted. A key and often overlooked aspect in the

educational world are the people who provide the knowledge to the students, educators.

Educators, most often referred to as teachers are a critical piece to the development of society but

are often overlooked in this nation when it comes to pay and recognition. Just like in every other

state in the United States, Texas is no different when it comes to teachers not receiving their

proper worth when it comes to their profession. More specifically though, not only are Texas

educators underpaid for their duties but are also facing a huge dilemma when it comes to their

retirement benefits in the form of health care. For example, the Texas Retirement System (TRS),

set up for retired teachers in the state of Texas has recently been raising health care prices for its

recipients and approaching a shortfall of funding as well1. This report will analyze the issues the

TRS is dealing with currently, what government is doing about it and share ideas on just how the

TRS Active Care plan can get back up on its feet.

1
Chang, Julie. “Lawmakers Propose Reining in Health Costs for Texas Retired Teachers.” Austin American-Statesman, 13 July
2017, http://www.mystatesman.com/news/state--regional-govt--politics/lawmakers-propose-reining-health-costs-for-
texas-retired-teachers/9IJXekXPrFGChQFhv0E11I/. Accessed 10 Sept. 2017.
The TRS was officially established in 1937 by the Constitution of Texas. Its initial

responsibility was to provide disability retirement benefits to public school teachers and

administrators but eventually branched out to all employees of public education institutions. Not

until 1985, was the TRS given the task of establishing a health insurance program for all public-

school employees. This task brought the TRS to the Active Care plan brought forth in 2001, in

which administrators were given the duty of coming up with a new statewide health care

program2. The TRS-Active Care is the issue at hand today due to the insufficient funds it obtains

to keep up with the number of retired teachers relying on the plan. In the recent years this health

care program has been approaching a shortfall of funds and the threat of discontinuation. The

TRS simply has not been able to keep up with the skyrocketing prices of health care costs over

the past ten years with the little changed implemented within the system3. Because of the lack of

funding in the TRS-Active Care plan, retired teachers in the state of Texas have seen their

premiums and deductibles go up drastically. This is a huge issue because now the former

educators who are very dependent of their health insurance, many are not able to afford the

health care promised to them and this issue is not only affecting them harshly but family

members, too. This issue is important because Texas retired teachers have put in a lot of time,

effort and money in their lifetimes to receive proper benefits when they become eligible to retire,

however are currently struggling to receive the proper benefits they reap from their years of

service. Texas legislators in the past couple of years have tried to fill the deficit of the health care

program by pumping millions of dollars into the system. This plan by the government in the past

2
N.A. “TRS History.” TRS, https://www.trs.texas.gov/Pages/about_trs_history.aspx. Accessed 24 Sept. 2017.

3
N.A. “TRS News (Retiree Edition).” TRS, https://www.trs.texas.gov/TRS%20Documents/trs_news_retiree_aug2017.pdf.
Accessed 8 Oct. 2017.
few years to keep uphold of the health care program has been the short-term solution until

something permanent can be established to get the Active Care program running smoothly and

efficiently for its recipients4.

Most recently the Texas Legislature passed two different bills to counteract the shortfall

and sustain TRS-Active Care for retirees and future retirees of the state. The new laws the

legislature passed, SB 1 and HB 3976 came into effect on September 1st of this year and

provided some much-needed additional funding for the health care program. These two laws

provided new funding in three different ways, in which one being a one time contribution of a

182 million dollars. The other two ways came from the means of raising active employees’

payroll contribution by .25% and bumping district contribution by .20%. All together these

contributions provided an extra 484 million dollars to the health care fund for 2018-2019, but

still aren’t good enough to get anywhere close to closing the 1.06 billion dollar deficit 5. While

these two new bills are generous and surely helpful to prevent the collapse of the TRS-Active

Care health program, they are still not good enough. The one time supplemental contribution is

just what it sounds like and won’t come by every year. In addition, current teachers are having to

put more of their current income into an insufficient health care program that doesn’t even

benefit them yet.

As one can imagine there are individuals in Texas that have strong opinions over the TRS

and effectiveness of the state government. One individual, Dana Glossbrenner, a retired teacher

of the state of Texas and now author, has a very strong opinion of her own over this issue within

the state. Glossbrenner in her article, “Texas Betrays Teachers, Children,” she goes on a rant

4
“Lawmakers Propose Reining in Health Costs for Texas Retired Teachers.”
5
“TRS News (Retiree Edition).”
about Texas needing a new regime change when it comes to the representatives of the states and

that their priorities stink, for better words. She believes that the state government simply does not

value education as it should and it is sad that Texas ranks so low when it comes to education, yet

has a strong economy and plethora of money. She believes that retired teachers are getting the

screws when it comes to their health care plans and rising prices. She even goes onto saying that

if this issue continues onward that “many [teachers] will be in welfare housing.” She believes

that not only are teachers being betrayed because of the low educational value in the state of

Texas, but the students are as well6. The second opinion over the TRS health care system is from

Michael Taylor. Taylor believes that the TRS is simply “too big to fail” and that too many people

rely on it. He also believes that when it comes to the new “hybrid retirement plan,” younger

teachers are getting the bad end of the stick compared to the older teachers or retired ones. His

reasoning behind this is because of the new pension plan, in which it seems like younger

educators are losing a lot more money by it and having to put more money towards TRS health

care than normal7. Now I would say when it comes around to my opinion on the TRS-Active

Care issue, I lean a little more towards Glossbrenner’s side, in that the Texas Government is

simply not prioritizing state education enough. I believe it is a shame that Texas is ranked so low

in the education system compared to the other states of this country. With all of Texas’ resources

and economic advantages, for Texas to be ranked in the bottom tier of education in the United

States is a travesty. Not only should education funding be a huge priority for the state, but

6
Glossbrenner, Dana. “Texas Betrays Teachers, Children.” Standard-Times, 22 March 2017,
http://www.gosanangelo.com/story/opinion/contributors/2017/03/22/texas-betrays-teachers-children/99324152/. Accessed 22
Oct. 2017.

7
Taylor, Michael. “Teachers Retirement System is ‘too big to fail’.” Houston Chronicle, 7 April 2017,
http://www.houstonchronicle.com/business/article/Teachers-Retirement-System-of-Texas-is-too-big-11059452.php. Accessed 22
Oct. 2017.
teachers’ pay and proper benefits should be of major importance as well. To draw people in to

the profession of education, the proper measures have to come with the job and that is

sufficiently paying educators well, to go along with great benefits during their tenure and in

retirement. Raising the level of education starts from the top and that comes from government

cooperation to fix issues such as TRS health care, so that people are willing to become educators

and develop our youth, that is crucial to the generations to come.

My action plan for the issue of funding problems with the TRS-Active Care program is to

simply elect candidates and get the right people in office for the state of Texas that highly value

education and make it a top priority within this state. By electing the right politicians who

prioritize education, it can make a big difference in the quality of public education in the state.

To get the right legislators in office who care about public education, agencies such as the TRS

and others that value the education system in Texas need to make a bigger effort with citizens on

the importance of going out and voting. Not only do they need to stress the importance of voting,

but they need to inform voters on the candidates who will make education funding a huge

priority and truly make a positive difference with the education system in Texas. In conclusion,

one way I could influence the role of government with this issue is to join one of the teacher

agencies within the state of Texas that value education and become an advocate on the issues by

coming up with ways with other members on how to improve education funding for the state.
Works Cited

Chang, Julie. “Lawmakers Propose Reining in Health Costs for Texas Retired Teachers.” Austin

American-Statesman, 13 July 2017, http://www.mystatesman.com/news/state--regional-

govt--politics/lawmakers-propose-reining-health-costs-for-texas-retired-

teachers/9IJXekXPrFGChQFhv0E11I/. Accessed 10 Sept. 2017.

Glossbrenner, Dana. “Texas Betrays Teachers, Children.” Standard-Times, 22 March 2017,

http://www.gosanangelo.com/story/opinion/contributors/2017/03/22/texas-betrays-

teachers-children/99324152/. Accessed 22 Oct. 2017.

Taylor, Michael. “Teachers Retirement System is ‘too big to fail’.” Houston Chronicle, 7 April

2017, http://www.houstonchronicle.com/business/article/Teachers-Retirement-System-

of-Texas-is-too-big-11059452.php. Accessed 22 Oct. 2017.

N.A. “TRS News (Retiree Edition).” TRS,

https://www.trs.texas.gov/TRS%20Documents/trs_news_retiree_aug2017.pdf. Accessed

8 Oct. 2017.

N.A. “TRS History.” TRS, https://www.trs.texas.gov/Pages/about_trs_history.aspx. Accessed 24

Sept. 2017.