Schools close, educators rally

Published 9:58 am Thursday, April 12, 2018

The passing of Senate Bill 151 is still very controversial among Kentucky educators. The bill has garnered controversy due to its presumed unfair overhaul of teachers’ pensions.

Several school systems across the state are closing April 13 to allow personnel to rally in Frankfort.

Elements of the original Senate Bill 1 were disguised within SB 151, titled “An act relating to the local provision of wastewater services.” The bill was passed quickly during the evening of March 29 without an opportunity for the public to analyze it.

Kentucky teachers have opposed changes to their pension, which were originally in SB 1, that proposed reducing benefits.

In a surprise move, elements of SB 1 were tucked into the separate SB 151. And the new, nearly 300-page SB 151 passed both the state House and Senate to the chagrin of teachers and retirees who crammed into the Capitol.

A brief overview of some of the bill’s key points states that after Jan. 1, 2019, teachers hired would not have a typical pension, but they would be put into a hybrid cash-balance plan at Teachers Retirement Systems of Kentucky. The summary also states that one of the biggest contentions of the old bill would not be present anymore — the reduction of the 1.5 percent cost of living adjustments. To elaborate, a retired teacher receives adjustments to offset the gradual rise in cost of living. The old bill, as it was, would have slashed that adjustment in half for the first 12 years of retirement.

The cash-balance plan is said to be less generous than the typical pension, but more dependable than a 401(K)-type plan. This cash-balance plan also does not offer the four percent annual return for teachers. After Dec. 31, teachers will not be able to accrue new sick days to put toward their retirement. Sick days received before this date can still be put into their pension.

The passing of SB 151 has brought protesters and rallies to Frankfort ever since its passing.

On April 13, many Kentucky counties are closing schools for the day so teachers and educators can rally at the Capitol in solidarity. Bell is one of those counties. There will also be no classes held in the Middlesboro and Pineville public school systems so teachers and others can travel to Frankfort.

Lisa Fuson Evans of the Department of Public Advocacy stated, “I cannot thank our superintendents enough for supporting our teachers and most of all, our students, by shutting down and allowing teachers, parents and kids to travel to Frankfort to fight for their education. We love our public schools. It is our responsibility as adults to protect our children…this is a full blown attack on education by powerful, dark, corporations and its steamrolling across our entire nation right now. I am so proud of our community for stepping up and coming together to stop them in their tracks,” she said.

Middlesboro Independent Schools Superintendent Waylon Allen stated, “To answer a statewide call to action, Middlesboro Independent Schools will be closed Friday (April 13) in support of public education. It is important for all voices to be heard and for our teachers and staff to participate in the legislative process.”