Teacher rally held to fight pension crisis

Published 2:18 pm Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Teachers and educators from various counties gathered Sunday at the Bell Theater in Pineville to make their voices heard regarding the overhaul to Kentucky’s pension system — which will uniformly disadvantage both current teachers and retirees.

“I’m glad to see this group of people here today standing up for what’s right,” stated Middlesboro Schools Superintendent Waylon Allen while he addressed the crowd.

“We’ve got to present a united front…the impact of bad legislation would be felt. I’m a superintendent, and right now if I had a high school math teacher quit it would be very hard to fill that position. I may not have an applicant…we can’t fill our jobs in southeast Kentucky as it is,” he said.

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A breakdown of the proposal’s key points was provided in a recent article published by the Lexington Herald Leader. Teachers who have not worked for 20 years will have to work even longer to receive enhanced retirement benefits. All of the current teachers will still be able to retire after they have reached 27 years and will still receive the benefits to which they are entitled. However, teachers who do not have 20 years under their belt by July 1 will have to work 35 years and reach the age of 60 before retiring in order to get their enhanced benefits. As of right now, currently working teachers receive these benefits from working only 30 years.

The article also states that for retired teachers, the yearly cost-of-living increases they receive will be slashed in half for the first 12 years. As of right now, retired teachers get a 1.5 percent annual cost-of-living increase to offset inflation. This new pension proposal will only give 0.75 percent for the first 12 years. It is estimated that this cut could cost a retired teacher $73,000 over the course of his or her life.

The article continues to state that also after July 1, teachers will not be able to build up new sick days to use toward their retirement. Teachers will also have to contribute an additional 3 percent of their salary into their retirement health insurance funds. The new bill will also do away with the inviolable contract for new teachers as of July 1. This means that lawmakers can adjust retirement plan benefits at any given time in the future.

Lucy Waterbury, the vice president of Legislative Response for Save Our Schools Kentucky spoke to the crowd from the parents’ perspective.

“We will be on the right side of history. We will save Kentucky from what, I’m astounded to say, is an out-of-state assault on Kentucky,” she said.

The Bell Theater was filled with passionate educators and educator supporters and local elected officials. They each spoke to the passion teachers have for their jobs and for the children they teach as well as the support needed from each other and the community to fight for what they earned.