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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