TCTA | Tuesday committee hearings include radical change to state…
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Tuesday committee hearings include radical change to state employee retirement

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The House Appropriations Committee held a hearing Tuesday on SB 321, a bill to restructure the state’s retirement plan for new state employees. The bill does not directly affect the Teacher Retirement System, but could have implications for school employees with service credit under ERS. Many details of the plan and how it might interact with TRS service for employees with experience in both systems are not yet known, and those employees will need to carefully watch implementation of the bill, if it passes. The bill has been left pending.

New state employees would be included in a “cash balance” pension plan, which is a hybrid of a defined benefit plan like TRS (and ERS for current employees) and a 401k-style plan. Benefits are based on the amount of money in the employee’s account upon retirement, but there is a guaranteed monthly annuity.

ERS has been in poor financial condition for several years, and currently has a funding period of “infinity”. The benchmark for minimal financial health is a funding period of under 31 years; TRS’s current period is around 27 years. The change in retirement benefits for new state employees would be accompanied by an infusion of more than $500 million per year for next 30+ years to shore up the existing ERS retirement plan for current state employees and retirees.

In other committee hearings

The House Public Education Committee hearing included:

  • HB 4064 by Rep. Terry Meza requires TEA to develop model guidance related to the prevention of bullying and harassment. The agency would be required to hire a safe school specialist.
  • SB 226 by Sen. Angela Paxton would require educator preparation programs to include instruction in virtual learning and virtual instruction.
  • SB 797 by Sen. Bryan Hughes requires schools to display the “In God We Trust” national motto in each building.
  • SB 1063 by Sen. Carol Alvarado adds a half credit in “personal financial literacy and economics” as an alternative to the currently-required half credit in economics.

The Senate Education Committee agenda included:

  • HB 1603 by Rep. Dan Huberty eliminates the expiration date for the individual graduation committees statute, which was due to expire in 2023.
  • HB 699 by Rep. Jon Rosenthal would accommodate students with life-threatening or serious illness by ensuring that necessary absences would be excused, and the student could not be referred for truancy, be subject to the 90% attendance rule, or be denied promotion if the relevant absences or failure to perform satisfactorily on assessments was due primarily to the illness or related treatment.
  • HB 785 by Rep. Alma Allen provides that if a student’s IEP includes a behavior improvement plan (BIP), the IEP committee must review the plan at least annually to address any changes in student’s circumstances that could impact the student’s behavior (e.g., a change in placement or increase in disciplinary actions, etc.) or the safety of the student or others. The bill also requires districts to provide written notification to parents regarding any use of restraint on a student. If a district takes a disciplinary action against a student that constitutes a “change in placement” under federal law, the district must seek parental consent to conduct a functional behavioral assessment (if the student has not had one within the past year) and review any previous such assessments, and must develop or revise, as appropriate, the student’s BIP.