Renewing standard certificates

by Karen Dooley

Q.  Does the Texas Education Agency (TEA) audit continuing professional education (CPE) credit for renewable standard certificates?

A. The short answer is yes, but they do not have the resources to audit every renewal submitted to the agency. Currently, about 80 individuals are being chosen per month for auditing CPEs, according to Dr. Tim Miller.

An educator affirms through an online affidavit they have met the CPE hours required for renewal. If selected for audit, the individual must provide documentation to TEA. The individual certificate holder is responsible for documenting their own hours and determining which CPE hours meet the renewal requirements. At least 80 percent of CPE activities should be focused on the standards and directly related to the certificate(s) being renewed.

A standard certification in Texas must be renewed every five years. Classroom teachers are required to complete 150 CPE hours over the five-year period. An individual who holds a professional certificate (i.e., administrative and student services) must complete 200 hours.

CPE hours may be earned through several avenues, including:

  • Workshops, conferences, in-service training, and staff development through an approved provider
  • Undergraduate and graduate coursework from an accredited college (one semester hour equals 15 CPE hours)
  • Interactive distance learning, video conferences, or online activities
  • Independent study (not to exceed 20 percent of the required clock hours)
  • Developing, teaching, or presenting a CPE activity (not to exceed 10 percent of the required clock hours)
  • Serving as a mentor to another educator (not to exceed 30 percent of the required clock hours)

A list of approved CPE providers and information for free online CPE providers may be found on the TEA website. Worksheets to assist educators in tracking CPE hours for each area also are available.

Provider recordkeeping requirements

Districts are not required to maintain individual educator records. As CPE providers, districts are responsible for creating their own system to document their training sessions. At the conclusion of each activity offered for CPE credit, the provider or sponsor must provide to each educator in attendance written documentation listing, at a minimum, all of the following:

  • Provider's name and provider number
  • Educator's name
  • Date and content of the activity
  • Number of clock-hours that count toward satisfying CPE requirements

Providers are required to maintain for a period of seven years after the activity is completed a record of CPE activities that includes a list of attendees, the date and content of the activity, and the number of clock hours that count toward satisfying CPE requirements for a period.

Texas districts increasing contribution amounts amid rising premiums

by Troy Bryant

Most responding Texas school districts (95 percent) saw their health insurance costs rise in 2017‒2018, according to the newest health insurance premiums survey conducted by TASB HR Services. Of the districts that saw increases, 90 percent passed all or some of the additional costs on to employees.

TRS-ActiveCare PPO plan rates increased across the board for 2017‒2018. The most common plan in Texas schools, TRS-ActiveCare 1-HD (high deductible), had a 7 percent average increase among all coverage types (e.g., individual, individual plus spouse, family). TRS-ActiveCare Select saw a double-digit average increase of 10 percent across coverage tiers, while TRS-ActiveCare 2 premiums—already the highest cost plan—jumped nearly 12 percent on average. TRS-ActiveCare HMO rate changes varied; for example, FirstCare premiums increased 9 percent on average, while Blue Essentials (formerly Allegian) rose 2.5 percent.

More than 90 percent of responding districts participate in a TRS-ActiveCare PPO or HMO plan. Other districts are self-insured, fully insured, or partially self-insured.

Compared to 2016, district monthly contribution amounts rose $25—from $275 to $300—for employee-only (individual) plans; employee-plus-family median contributions rose $12, from $288 to $300. These contribution amounts include $75 provided by the state. For the survey, participants reported amounts for their employee-only and employee-plus-family plans with the highest number of employees enrolled in the district.

According to the survey, the median employee-only total monthly premium is $351 ($4,212 annually); for the employee-plus-family tier, the total monthly premium is $1,316 ($15,792 annually). Both rates are equivalent to the TRS-ActiveCare high-deductible plan.

The median employee’s portion of the total monthly cost reported in the survey is $101 for the employee-only plan and $1,054 for employees with family coverage. Employees of Texas districts pay 80 percent of the total premium for family health care costs. Approximately 15 percent of surveyed districts reported paying 100 percent of the employee-only insurance premium this year.

National surveys indicate a stabilization of health insurance costs across the U.S. According to a 2017 survey released by Kaiser Family Foundation/Health Research & Educational Trust (HRET), the average monthly premium for individuals is $558 ($6,690 annually) and the average family premium is $1,564 ($18,764 annually)—an increase of 4 percent and 3 percent respectively from 2016. The national survey noted that average family premiums have increased 19 percent since 2012.

Mercer’s 2017 National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans found average health benefit coverage rose 2.6 percent per employee, similar to last year’s 2.4 percent increase. Total health benefits cost averaged $12,229 per employee in 2017, according to the survey.

Employees pay 24 percent of the total cost of coverage through payroll deductions. Companies are countering growing health care costs through high-deductible health plans and health savings accounts (HSAs), as well as promoting lower-cost telemedicine services and directing employees to specialty pharmacies in order to reduce prescription drug costs.

According to the 2017 Milliman Medical Index (MMI), the average annual cost of health care for a family of four covered by a PPO plan in the U.S. is $26,944. This is a rate increase of 4.3 percent compared to last year. Of the total, $11,685 (43 percent) is paid by the employee. This includes $7,151 in payroll deductions for premiums and $4,534 in out-of-pocket costs incurred at the time of care.

Finally, participants in the TASB survey were asked if their district implemented other health care cost-saving measures. Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), onsite flu shots/immunizations, and telehealth services are additional benefits most commonly provided by districts, according to the survey.
Data was collected from 348 Texas public school districts in November 2017. HR Services member districts can participate in the ongoing 2017‒2018 health insurance premiums survey in DataCentral. Users can access the full results upon completion of the survey.

The 5 most popular stories of 2017

by Zach DiSchiano

The new year has arrived, but many of last year’s most discussed issues and trends in HR remain relevant in 2018.

Take a look at the top five most read stories from the HR Exchange in 2017.

5. Understanding new legislation affecting HR administration

The 85th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature concluded in May and was a major talking point for the remainder of the year. This article helps HR administrators understand the rule changes and how to comply with them going forward.

4. Employee paychecks and direct deposit

A quick, straightforward Q&A that answers the question, “can a district require direct deposit of employee paychecks?”

3. Hiring a retiree to substitute in a vacant position

This Q&A explains why it is permissible for individuals receiving benefits from the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) to serve as a substitute in a vacant position for a limited period of time.

2. Senate Bill 7 pre-employment affidavit

Among the most discussed bills of the entire legislative session was Senate Bill 7, which required applicants for certain positions to complete a pre-employment affidavit indicating whether the applicant has ever been charged with or adjudicated of having an inappropriate relationship with a minor. While the bill helps prevent districts from “passing the trash,” it doesn’t make for a seamless transition for HR staff. That’s where this article comes in, courtesy of TASB Legal Services.

1. Withdrawal of teacher resignations

Can a teacher withdraw his or her resignation once it has been submitted? There are layers to answering this question, and that’s probably why it was the number one most read story on the HR Exchange in 2017. You might want to bookmark that page in case you need to revisit it—it has a great deal of helpful guidance.

HR Extras

No changes to TASB Model Contracts

There will not be any changes to the TASB Model Contracts in 2018. The 2017 TASB Model Contracts and related documents are available in the HR Library.

Standard mileage rate increase now in effect

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced a one-cent increase in standard mileage rates for the 2018 calendar year, which became effective January 1.

  • 54.5 cents for every mile of business travel driven, up 1 cent from the rate for 2017
  • 18 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes, up 1 cent from the rate for 2017
  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations

For more information, view the press release from the IRS.

Deadline to supply ACA forms to employees extended

The deadline to distribute 2017 health coverage information forms to employees has been extended 30 days to March 2, 2018.

The IRS announced the extension in late December and will not impose penalties on employers who conveyed good-faith efforts to comply with the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) information reporting requirements for plan year 2017. The deadline for reporting to the IRS hasn’t changed.

For more details, view the SHRM report or the IRS Notice 2018-06.

IRS issues new paycheck withholding tables

After the enactment of the 2017 tax act, the IRS has issued revised tax withholding tables for employees’ paychecks as well as withholding guidance this month to reflect the legislative changes.

SHRM has detailed information about the withholding tables and useful tips for employers on its website

Inside HR Services

Extra-duty stipend data coming soon

The 2017–2018 Extra-Duty Stipend Survey data will be available in DataCentral to HR Services members on January 29. Be sure that your district participates so you can create your own custom market comparison reports for more than 70 athletic, academic, and performing arts stipends.

FMLA forms available in Spanish

TASB HR Services has translated the following forms to Spanish:

  • Designation Notice
  • Notice of Eligibility and Rights & Responsibilities

Each document is available for members to download in the Leaves section of the HR Library.