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More than 1,000 retired educators met in Austin at the Texas Retired Teachers Association’s 66th Annual Convention at the Hilton held April 1 and 2.

Attendees from all over Texas participated in this year’s convention, followed by a day of advocacy and ice cream at the Capitol April 3. These public education retirees will discuss the future of their pension fund and the need for a cost-of-living adjustment, among other issues.

“Last session, retirees worked with legislators to help resolve a health care funding crisis,” said Patricia Macias, Texas Retired Teachers Association president. “Despite changes made during the regular 85th Legislative Session and Special Session, the TRS-Care retiree health insurance program has another shortfall of about $230 million. Our public education retirees live on stagnant incomes and are struggling with high premium increases that went into effect last January. Many have never received a cost-of-living increase since retiring and are trying to survive today on yesterday’s dollars!”

The convention, entitled “Connecting the Dots to TRTA’s Success,” focuses on retirees, as well as active educators, working together to protect their retirement benefits now and in the future. Members are concerned about how the decision to lower the rate of return assumption for the Teacher Retirement System of Texas pension trust fund from eight percent to 7.25 percent may affect its traditional defined benefit plan.

TRTA opposes any effort to change the plan to a defined contribution or 401k-style plan for current or future retirees. TRTA supports the Legislature raising the base state contribution to secure the stability of the pension fund and help it reach actuarial soundness.

“TRS is a strong system that provides retirement security for one out of every 20 Texans,” said Tim Lee, TRTA Executive Director. “TRS is the sole form of retirement income for the vast majority of Texas educators, as 96 percent of school districts in the state do not pay into Social Security. Retirees receive an average of $2,000 per month in their monthly annuities, while 32 percent receive $1,000 per month or less. The only way retirees can receive a Cost of Living Adjustment is if their pension fund is considered actuarially sound by state law, meaning the fund needs to be able to pay off all of its liabilities within a 31-year period. This can’t happen unless contributions to the fund are increased. It’s time to raise the base.”

“Education retirees are very engaged politically and know how important it is that we work across the aisle with all legislators,” said Tonna Duke, TRTA State Legislative Coordinator. “We are grateful for the efforts our Senators and Representatives have made and feel they genuinely care about us, and we will continue working with them on the legislation that’s been filed this session to shore up the pension fund and provide some financial relief for retirees.”

TRTA is the nation’s largest organization of public education retirees with 94,000 members It advocates improved benefits for current and retired public education employees and seeks to advance the well-being through community involvement and legislative efforts.