September 17, 2020: 13th check TRS pension update; Florida cancels standardized testing…time to nix STAAR!; Bills from 2nd special session signed

13th check for TRS retirees planned for delivery in January

Graphic of woman holding giant supplemental payment check above a January calendarThe Teacher Retirement System of Texas will deliver a supplemental pension payment—a 13th check—to retirees in January after the budget bill funding is signed by the governor.

TRS members who retired before December 31, 2020 (or beneficiaries of a member who died before that date) are eligible for the payment, which is capped at $2,400. So retirees will get this additional pension distribution in their regular monthly amount, up to a maximum of $2,400.

The TRS Executive Board convened yesterday for its two-day quarterly meeting. TRS’s Chief Investment Officer, James Nield, reported to the board that the pension fund was in a strong position, with nearly every asset showing improvement after a financially difficult 2020 fiscal year. TRS adopted policy recommendations to implement SB 1444, which went into effect September 1. SB 1444 requires that school districts opting out of TRS Active Care stay out for at least five years. School districts that previously opted out of TRS Active Care will also be given the opportunity to opt back in as a result of the policy change. TRS will require those districts to commit to being in TRS Active Care for a minimum of five years. It also allows TRS to move to offer regional rates for healthcare coverage. TRS also plans to decide on its long-term facilities plan during today’s meeting, and we will update you on any important announcements.

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Signature from governor finalizes some bills from second special session; third special session starts Monday

Rays from light in a distant door way dash through a darkened capitol rotundaSince the second called session of the Texas Legislature ended two weeks ago, Gov. Greg Abbott has been signing the passed legislation into law.

One of the first bills that the governor signed was SB 1, the voter suppression bill that prompted House Democrats to break quorum. The bill is scheduled to take effect December 2, 2021, before the March 2022 primary elections. Since the bill’s signing, several groups, including Texas AFT, have filed lawsuits arguing that SB 1 suppresses voters’ voices and violates federal law.

Gov. Abbott also signed SB 7 and SB 15 last week. SB 7 provides TRS members who retired before this year with a one-time supplemental payment of up to $2,400. SB 15 grants local schools the authority to set up their own virtual learning programs and guarantees funding for these programs through September 2023. Due to the bipartisan support these bills received, both are effective immediately.

SB 3, the classroom social studies censorship bill, and SB 9, which provides students with training on interpersonal violence and sex trafficking, have not yet been signed by the governor. The governor vetoed legislation similar to SB 9 after the regular session this spring because that bill did not allow parents to opt their students out of the training. During the special session, lawmakers adjusted SB 9 to fit the governor’s demands. Both bills are expected to be signed into law. The deadline for the governor to sign bills into law is September 22.

The third called session of the Texas Legislature begins Monday. That session will cover redistricting, school vaccine mandates, transgender student sports participation, and other issues.

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Florida announces end to standardized testing; will Texas follow?

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has announced the end of standardized testing in his state. Gov.Gov. Abott with a smirk and Gov. DeSantis looking bewildered Greg Abbott usually copies DeSantis’ every move, so we want to voice our support for the governor to add legislation to this third special session’s agenda that cancels STAAR permanently.

If we want to copy all the extremist homework of Florida and other states on mask mandates, the least we could do is rip off a move that will actually help students and educators. We want Gov. Abbott to help close our “achievement gap” with Florida. It’s time to end standardized testing in Texas.

Our state leaders have done precious little to help our schools keep students and staff safe in a pandemic. Instead, they’ve spent their time suing school districts and fighting mask mandates in court. The LEAST they could do is relieve students and educators of the useless hardship of high-stakes testing.

Send a letter to Gov. Abbott and the Texas Education Agency today asking that they follow in Florida’s footsteps and end high-stakes testing in Texas!

Social Studies TEKS Review Work Group application

Texas red white blue flag fills in letters of T-E-K-SThe State Board of Education (SBOE) will soon begin the review and revision of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for K-12 social studies. The SBOE’s TEKS review and revision process calls for multiple, separate work groups to make recommendations to the SBOE for revisions to the current standards. SBOE members nominate individuals, including educators, parents, business and industry representatives, and employers, to serve on TEKS review work groups.

The SBOE is now accepting applications to serve on social studies TEKS review work groups. Individuals selected will be asked to serve on one or more work groups. TEKS review work groups typically convene for two-day meetings and may include Saturdays. Additional days or meetings may be scheduled if needed. The Texas Education Agency is currently conducting TEKS review meetings virtually but is expected to return to face-to-face meetings later this year. The invitation to serve on a work group will include the format/location of the meeting.

To access the application and for more information regarding the K-12 social studies TEKS review, please visit the Social Studies TEKS Review webpage. Questions regarding the application or TEKS review process may be sent via email to

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It’s been an exhausting year, but the fight needs to continue!

Melina smiling, short blond hair, glasses and dark eyes. Links to video.This has been an exhausting year, especially for those who wear many hats, like Melina Espiritu-Azocar—a parent, long-time teacher, and now union leader at Northside AFT in San Antonio. “I’m a 14-year educator, and now, every day, I work to help my fellow union members as an organizer for Northside AFT,” she said. “And like you, I’m tired. Besides dealing every day with a global pandemic, we have fought together for public education through three legislative sessions. And now there’s another special session set for the end of this month — with several concerning bills on the agenda.”

Espiritu-Azocar realizes the importance of continuing the fight, of not quitting. And one crucial way to do that is to bolster our power politically. Listen to Espiritu-Azocar on why it’s so important to plug into the political process by donating to our political action fund. Every dollar helps us stand up to moneyed special interests in the Legislature and school board races.

Texas AFT under state law is not allowed to use member dues money for political contributions to candidates. So voluntary contributions from members to the Committee on Political Education (COPE) are the only means to provide direct financial support to candidates. Additionally, Texas AFT can only solicit its members and their immediate family members for contributions to COPE. If you are unsure about your eligibility to donate, give us a call at 512-448-0130.



Texas AFT logo and text: National Board Certification

Bridges Institute hosts National Board Teacher Certification preparation course

Texas AFT prepares teachers interested in obtaining a National Board Certification by providing virtual courses that delve into the National Board Standards and certification process. Introduction to National Board Certification will prepare participants for the National Board Certification journey. Participants will complete this course over several weeks at their own pace (asynchronous learning). A facilitator will be available to provide individual support as needed throughout the course.

Interested teachers must attend a live virtual meeting, including a program overview, course exploration, and Q&A Session. Two opportunities will be provided for participants to attend the live meeting:

Wednesday, October 27th, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Bridges Institute offers Mindfulness Essentials series

Color bar orange with text: Mindfulness Essentials
The Bridges Institute will be hosting the Mindfulness Essentials series via Zoom next month. The series started on Wednesday and will continue each Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., throughout the months of September and October. These free instructive webinars will help participants better understand their mind and emotions. CPE credit will be issued per hour of participation. Sign up for the webinars here.

In addition to the instructive webinars, The Bridges Institute will also host weekly practice sessions in which participants can take part in guided meditation. These sessions begin September 20 and occur on subsequent Mondays, from 6:15 p.m. to 6:45 p.m., throughout the months of September and October. Sign up for the practice sessions here.

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