Summer 2016

ATPE News is the official publication of the Association of Texas Professional Educators, the largest educator association in Texas. The magazine addresses the most important issues affecting public education in the state. Learn more at

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40 | atpe news years as a Texas schoolteacher. Her husband worked at a local manufacturing plant. Upon retirement, she began receiving her TRS pension of $3,000 per month. Her husband retired from the plant at the same time and fled for his Social Security benefts of $2,300 per month. Sadly, he passed away only four years later. Upon his death, Nicole learned that she would not be eligible to receive a normal Social Security survivor's beneft. Thanks to the GPO, her survivor's beneft was reduced to $300 per month (see chart on page 15). If Nicole had been an accountant (or any other profession that paid into Social Security) instead of a teacher, she would have been subject to a separate set of restrictions that calculate her total benefts, known as the dual entitlement rule. The dual entitlement rule states that a person's total beneft cannot exceed the highest beneft to which the person is entitled. In short, Social Security rules were set up so that no one should get both their full spousal beneft and their entire personal Social Security beneft. The GPO is arbitrary and confusing to many to whom it applies, and it would certainly beneft Texas public education employees if it were repealed. The Importance of Planning Ahead Before you make your elections on your Texas TRS pension, consider how your monthly cash fow may change if your spouse dies. How will the loss of your Social Security survivor's beneft afect your monthly retirement income? As you plan your retirement, make sure you know your options so that you can make the best decisions for you and your family. continued from page 15 TEXANS ON EDUCATION continued from page 19 DIFFERENT BY DESIGN build a new facility. "It was a battle," she says. "We often said, 'Give us that building and we're going to show you what we can do.'" After nearly 20 years of coping with less-than-ideal learning conditions, the Round Rock School Board approved a plan to build a new high school. The $21 million dollar building, purchased with money from the district's general operating fund balance, was completed in 2014. There has been a waiting list to enroll since the doors of the 68,000 square-foot building opened, and the school quickly became a model for other districts nationwide. First-time visitors to the new high school are often struck by the contrast to classes held in portables and preconceived notions about alternative school facilities. Large multipanel windows fll the two-story commons space with natural light. This area is a multifunctional space, complete with sliding walls and movable furniture, for meeting and studying. Students also have access to integrated labs, design studios with operable partitions, and multipurpose rooms. And whenever creativity strikes, students are encouraged to use writeable walls in breakout areas surrounding the commons space. The campus is also home to media labs, a multi-use library, an onsite childcare center, a food service kitchen, and ftness facilities. Chang is in her 21st year at Success and taught in the portables. She says she touches the walls of the new building daily. "There's a big diference when you have a building that a kid can be proud of," she says. "To have a school built especially for them—it builds up their confdence and makes them feel worthwhile." continued from page 23 ROBOTICS IN THE CLASSROOM on a high school application, and there are many scholarships available for robotics students." At Galena Park High School, many of Johnson's graduating seniors are the frst members of their families to attend college. According to him, robotics opens up avenues of study that weren't available to these students before. He hopes that participating in robotics encourages his student to pursue an engineering-related degree in college. Get Your School Involved! Interested in starting a robotics team at your school and participating in the UIL pilot program? The UIL website has more information about the pilot program as well as details on the BEST and FIRST robotics programs at www. You can fnd more information on starting a BEST team at uilchampionship/ and a FIRST team at For Texas to continue to lead the way in STEM-related jobs, our students need to be prepared for careers involving the very principles that robotics programs instill. Robotics programs give students a leg up as they prepare for college and their careers outside of school. Plus, robots are really, really cool.

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