Prepare for Teacher Pension Assault

With Kentucky’s pension crisis in its state retirement systems, Governor Bevin has indicated that a special session dealing with pension and tax reform will most likely be called for this September. Both the governor and various lawmakers have started using language such as shared sacrifices and painful choices, which indicates that educators must stay alert this summer to developments.

Initial signs point toward the state trying to decrease benefits for both current teachers and retirees. State officials and legislators are touting pension liabilities as far greater than what actual pension auditors have indicated and have stated that health insurance, sick day payouts, the high three calculation (versus five), increased retirement age, and more are on the table. It has even been suggested that any pension enhancements added after the retirement system was created fall outside of the inviolable contract, and thus may not be covered. Do they mean 1940 when the system was founded? There is also much discussion around placing new teachers into a 401K system, which means that the current KTRS plans will not receive future funding, a situation which puts current teachers’ retirements in jeopardy.

Two facts are clear — one, for years the Kentucky legislature woefully underfunded its required contributions while teachers never missed a payment. That point is critical because our pension system fared worse in the economic crisis of 2008 than other state systems which received continuous full funding. While KTRS would have taken a hit, as all systems did, it wouldn’t be anywhere close to the current underfunded amount. The second fact is that Kentucky teachers do NOT receive Social Security benefits, and get next to nothing of a spouse’s benefits. KTRS was meant to give teachers security similar to people who receive Social Security and other income, a tradeoff for low pay over a lifetime of service.

Make no mistake, there are groups — both inside and outside the state — who are eagerly pursuing ways to take away educators’ earned benefits. Just browse through our Facebook or Twitter posts to see these very same events happening to teachers around the nation. This push is organized and is trying to convince the public why you shouldn’t receive rightful benefits.

Please pay attention and be ready to fight to protect your retirement and that of future teachers.

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Active Kentucky Legislative Session Impacts Education

Members who follow our Facebook and Twitter accounts know that the 2017 legislativeKentucky_State_Capitol session was filled with activity related to education. Several bills were passed that will have immediate and long-lasting implications for teachers and students. Below is a summary of these bills.

Senate Bill 1: This bill was dubbed, “The Teachers Can Teach” bill. SB 1 was passed to comply with the new federal guidelines that were put in place with the passage of ESSA (replacing NCLB) in December 2015. This bill removes the Program Review requirements, calls for a new student accountability system, and takes away some pieces of the Teacher Evaluation System.

http://www.lrc.ky.gov/record/17RS/SB1.htm

Senate Bill 50:

SB 50 calls for each school district to form a Calendar Committee, including teachers, principals, classified staff, parents, community members and district administrators. Historically, FCPS has always had a Calendar Committee. Beginning with the 2018-19 school year, a local board MAY (this is not required) adopt a variable instructional school year calendar with the first student day starting no earlier than the Monday closest to August 26. However, student days can be no longer than 420 minutes, and the school year shall still meet the 1,062 student instructional hour requirement.

http://www.lrc.ky.gov/record/17RS/SB50.htm

House Bill 520:

This bill allows for the creation of Public Charter Schools in Kentucky. Authorizers for public charters are the local school board, and in the case of Lexington and Louisville, the mayor. Those wishing to create a Charter School will need to apply to one of the authorizers; if they are denied, they can appeal to the Kentucky Board of Education. State and local tax dollars will follow the students to the Charter Schools, if they choose to attend. We do not expect to see the first Charter School in Kentucky until the 18-19 school year.

http://www.lrc.ky.gov/record/17RS/HB520.htm

House Bill 128: With the passage of HB 128, schools may now offer a Bible Literacy Course (as an elective) at the high school level. Schools are not required to create the course and students are not required to take the course. This bill essentially calls for KDE to set the administrative regulations for the course, if any schools wishes offer it to students.

http://www.lrc.ky.gov/record/17RS/HB128.htm

We expect that the Kentucky General Assembly will reconvene in September of this year for a special session to consider tax and pension reform. Please stay aware during the summer of developments regarding pension issues.

FCEA Award Winners to be Recognized at Board Meeting

Congratulations to the winners of the 2017 FCEA Award for Teaching Excellence. These three teachers are not only leaders in their schools and the district but are also leaders in our association.

Liz Buckler from Squires Elementary, Susan McLaughlin-Jones of Lafayette High, and Ashley Randolph of Morton Middle were selected from a large pool of applicants to receive a $500 cash award, a commemorative plaque, and a nomination for KEA’s Teacher of the Year for 2018.

We look forward to seeing them recognized at the May FCPS School Board Meeting.

2017 FCEA Excellence Award Winnters

FCEA Members Serve as Mentors to New Teachers

A big thank you goes out to these FCEA members who served as mentors this year as part mentor.jpgof the Fayette County Public Schools New Teacher Induction Program.

Our organization partnered with FCPS this year to create a program which would better prepare new teachers for the classroom. As part of that initiative, mentor teachers were chosen based on their excellence in designing and delivering student instruction.

FCEA is incredibly proud that these seven teachers provided high quality leadership and guidance to the district’s new educators.

  • Monique Beckham – Bryan Station Middle
  • Kara Beth Johnson – William Wells Brown
  • Susan McLaughlin-Jones – Lafayette
  • Sherri McPherson – Lafayette
  • Britney Nichols – Harrison
  • Eric Preece — Wellington
  • Melanie Trowel – Carter G. Woodson

 

TELL Survey Results Expected This Month

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For the 2017 TELL Kentucky Survey, results are expected to be released by mid-May. The window for teachers to complete the survey was open from March 1-31, and a record number of responses increased the state’s average rate of completion to 91%. Fayette County hit that average with 90.91% of staff responding.

As always, FCEA emphasizes the importance of educators providing feedback on teaching conditions in their schools. There is a known correlation between a positive teaching environment and student learning and teacher retention. The input that certified educators provide every two years is used to inform improvements in schools, districts, and the state.

The Tell Kentucky Survey is a chance to make your voice heard, and it’s completely anonymous. Thanks to all who participated!

Forget, Where’s Waldo? Where’s the Sub?

For the last couple of years, FCEA has collaborated with the district’s Human Resources’ subdepartment on solutions to address the substitute teacher shortage in Fayette County. The demand for Special Education substitutes, in particular, was reaching a crisis point.

However, thanks to Superintendent Caulk’s and the FCPS Board of Education’s commitment, a $20.00 daily incentive is now being offered to substitute teachers and paraeducators who accept special education assignments. The board took this action on November 21.

For now, the pay is a short-term strategy that FCEA and FCPS Human Resources will revisit in January to examine its effectiveness. While we know the overall shortage is far from being solved, please know that our organization continues to advocate for its members.

Teacher Pension System Reform – How It Impacts You

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Many teachers, especially young ones, don’t think much about their pension situation until 27+ years of service rolls around, and they begin considering retirement. However, if you’ve been following FCEA on Facebook and Twitter, or reading this newsletter, you realize the Teacher Retirement System of Kentucky isn’t in good shape after many years of underfunding by Kentucky’s governors and lawmakers.

So, what exactly does that mean for you?

Well, while the money poured into the pension system last year was much needed and appreciated, it still cannot make up for chronic underfunding. As a result, the governor, legislators, and others seem to be floating the idea of benefit cuts for current employees and retirees, as well as incoming new teachers. These possibilities include implementing 401K plans, increasing the retirement age for CURRENT employees, changes to retiree health care benefits, eliminating payment for sick days upon retirement, and more.

Some people have even suggested that the pension reform will be “painful” to everyone. In a recent interview, David Eager, the interim director for Kentucky Retirement Systems, discussed the KY pension systems. Around the 9:26 min. mark, he offers some specific glimpses into what may happen to teacher pensions with the “reform.”

However, FCEA wants to be clear that teachers and support staff have already felt pain through personal pension contributions of almost 13% and increased health care costs to ensure health care during retirement. These were compromises worked out some years back in an effort to get the system back on sound footing.

Legislators say they are waiting for more information from the Kentucky Retirement Systems’ audit report, which should be released soon. We’ll keep members updated on developments, but remember this … Kentucky educators get little to no Social Security benefits, and that includes spousal benefits, due to the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP).

Your pension will determine if you retire with dignity and security. Be ready to take action.