Educators in my district are honest, hardworking public servants who make financial sacrifices by choosing a career in education over high-paying private sector jobs for which they easily qualify. They make the choice to become educators because they believe in giving back, they love children, and they want to help strengthen our future.
In exchange for their efforts in preparing our children, the state of Texas told its teachers they would receive a pension upon retirement that would provide quality, affordable health care coverage during the years following a lifetime of service.
Texas has not honored that promise, and now the future for some 270,000 retired educators is in jeopardy. This past session we approved a bill providing only about 70 percent of what was needed to keep the Teacher Retirement System, or TRS, health program solvent. That pushed a shortfall projected to reach $400 million by 2021, according to the San Antonio Express-News, onto the backs of retired teachers.
These retirees are now seeing astronomical increases in premiums and out-of-pocket costs right in the middle of a dangerous flu epidemic. To place this financial burden on the retired educators who believed the promise they were given by their employer and who are now struggling financially is unconscionable. Texas has broken the trust that retired teachers had in our system, and we must do what is necessary to restore that trust.
Due to the urgency of this matter and because of the injustice to both our children and educators, I ask my colleagues to join me in asking Gov. Greg Abbott to call a special session. If we do not begin the discussion immediately and give our educators the priority that we expect them to give our children, then what kind of message are we sending them about the value we place on the education of our youth?
We are fielding calls on a daily basis from retired educators in my district who are struggling to pay for the new TRS-Care insurance. Tanya Evers, who retired in 2004 from Northside ISD, is one of those teachers who has watched this crisis unfold. “While the cost of living continues to rise, retired teachers have not received an increase in pension in over 18 years,” Evers said. “Meanwhile, we are in a downward financial crisis because as the cost of insurance increases, our pensions are reduced by the same amount in premium costs.”