Sunset staff report: TRS needs to repair its relationship with its members

As do most other state agencies, the Teacher Retirement System of Texas has to undergo periodic sunset review by the Legislature. TRS’ turn will be during next year’s session, and in preparation the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission has been conducting a study of how TRS can improve its operations. You can find the staff report here. The commission itself will decide later this year whether to adopt it as is or revise it before sending its final recommendations to the Legislature.

By chance, the study coincided with the controversy over TRS’ lease of expensive office space in the Indeed Tower in downtown Austin. TRS has backed out of that lease, but it should be no surprise that one of the staff recommendations is for the agency to repair its relationship with its members by focusing on their needs.

The sunset staff also recommended, among other things, that TRS have more effective contract management and oversight and, as one of the largest public pension funds in the United States, have greater transparency in its investment practices.

While some of these recommendations are a result of the Indeed Tower controversy, the report also looks at broader issues that need to be addressed. A common theme throughout the report is the “unique and precarious” position that TRS is in as both a large institutional investor in the high-powered investment world and as a public agency with a duty to ultimately serve its members. The report notes that TRS struggles to strike a balance between these two worlds and is failing to ensure that its members have consistent support and information needed to be secure in retirement.

The shorter, executive summary of the report can be found here. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a Sunset commission public hearing previously scheduled for April 30 has been canceled. TSTA will update members when a new hearing date is announced.