The Affected: A False Deal on Pensions

By: Lillian Barry & Nathaniel Baines
On Sept. 21, two Barren County High School teachers, Rosmarie Grice and Steven Metzger, were questioned about how our state’s pension crisis is affecting them. They opened up about how their personal lives are being affected due to the crisis.
Grice is an English teacher of 19 years, being “non-traditional” in the idea that she did not enter the field of teaching directly but instead had several careers beforehand. Metzger is a math teacher of 31 years (traditional) and also has a unique case with the pension issue as his wife is also a math teacher of 31 years. Despite their different situations, the two teachers had much of the same opinions.
Overall, both teachers are greatly affected by the pension issue, as every teacher in Barren County is; but the interview gives a good idea as to how wide and varying the issues from the pension crisis are, and both Grice and Metzger have their own set of problems from it. The issue is not a simple case, nor is it the same case for any of the teachers across Kentucky.
Grice started the conversation strongly, “The state has danced around the whole issue and has not contributed as they should have. The government needs to make good on its promises too. These teachers who are in the system now, in good faith, did their job; now the government, in good faith, needs to do its job.”
This is an often echoed idea by the whole body of teachers, as it was mentioned at the pension meeting held at BCHS Auditorium Sept. 11. When people become teachers, they’re given a set of “promises” that involve what they’ll receive after or throughout their career. A pension was a huge part of that, as it’s the main source of most retired teachers’ incomes. However, with the sudden change that is the removal of the pensions, it shows the government cannot keep to its side of a deal that was made when a teacher began working for the state. Both Grice and Metzger agree.
“This affects me for the rest of my life after I retire,” Metzger stated after talking about how he has a limited field he can work in outside of teaching, as this has been his only career his whole life.
Metzger mentioned how he had first started teaching because it was seen as something with unique and promising benefits, one being for the potential to be with his children on holidays more often and another being the retirement plan. He and his wife have been teaching for the same amount of time, making it both their first careers, thus leading to them being even more greatly affected since both of their retirement plans are now potentially gone.
“I’m worried about them getting teachers in the future. My daughter is a second year teacher, and I worry about her. She loves her job, and I worry about her future,” Metzger stated after talking about the repercussions of the pension issue. 
Grice summarized what several nontraditional teachers are currently suffering through, “I’m a nontraditional person. I would have to work longer, even when I’m well past the mandatory 55 to get the benefits that  Metzger will get when he retires next year. If some of the proposals go through, my retirement could be cut even further than it is already.”
Nontraditional teachers can even suffer from where they paid into social security while not working as a teacher, and when they retire now, they can only possibly get a third of that payment. 
Some other benefits from social security cannot be received either, Grice explains:
“When I retire, I cannot get, for instance, my late husband’s widow’s benefits. He worked and taught as a professor at Western for 30 years and payed into a retirement system. But now as a widow, as a teacher, I’m ineligible for those benefits.”
Everybody has ideas as to how this could potentially be fixed, and both of the teachers agreed they were not people that worked with finances, but still were capable of voicing what they believe could be done to reach a resolution. They both said it could be by putting money into the system, increasing taxes, and more – all of these being popular ideas among others as well.
“I don’t know how we got into this mess, but they just need to take care of it,” Metzger finished.
It is definite that people believe this issue could have been avoided with the proper funding plans taken by our government, which could now be reached at the special session that will be called soon; even still there are shaky details as to how teachers have now potentially lost such a benefit to their teaching career. It’s now just the matter of how we are going to fix it, and still keep the end of the deal.