After a flurry of activity at the beginning of the special session, action on bills that would provide financial relief to teachers and retirees are in a holding pattern. Next Wednesday, Aug. 16, is the last possible day of the special session.

TRS-Care

Legislators and others are having ongoing discussions about the proposals to increase TRS-Care funding by $212 billion to help lower deductibles and premiums. There are a few areas of contention between the House and Senate, including:

  • Funding source — the House proposed using the Rainy Day Fund, while the Senate wants to defer payments to managed care organizations (MCOs).
  • How the money would be used — both chambers intend to cut TRS-Care deductibles in half for non-Medicare eligible retirees (from $3,000 to $1,500) and help retirees who are caring for disabled adult children, but the House also wants to provide premium relief for spouse/child/family coverage for both Medicare and non-Medicare retirees, while the Senate proposes to reduce Medicare retiree premiums by $25.

The Senate’s TRS-Care proposal is in SB 19, which has passed the Senate but has not yet had a committee hearing in the House Appropriations Committee. The House’s version is in HB 20, which has passed the House but has not been referred to a Senate committee.

Salaries

SB 19 also incorporates longevity bonuses for teachers ($600 for teachers with 6-10 years of experience; $1,000 for those with 11 or more). The funding for the bonuses also comes from the MCO deferral, which continues to be a sticking point for the House. SB 19 would provide bonuses only to classroom teachers.

The House proposal for teacher salaries is HB 24; that bill has been voted out of the House Appropriations Committee but has not been scheduled for House floor action. HB 24 proposes a $1,000 across-the-board increase, funded through the Rainy Day Fund. This bill would apply to all educators subject to the state salary schedule (teachers, counselors, nurses, librarians).

Unfortunately, both the House and Senate may consider “punting” on salaries by conducting a study of teacher compensation — either through a legislative committee or as a subject for a broader school finance commission — rather than actually approving a pay increase.

There is enough time remaining in the special session that it is still possible that one or more of the above bills could pass. Legislators have been responsive to teacher input, but it’s crucial to keep the pressure on, so keep contacting your House and Senate members to let them know what's important to you.