Bowling Green, KY — Government workers all over Kentucky have been plagued with the fear of pension reform. More specifically, teachers are affected by drastic changes in retirement plans. The proposed plan would impact both the current teachers and those that are retired. Recently, educators released a rebuttal plan called the “Shared Responsibility Plan.” Many teachers feel as though this plan alleviates most of the issues Matt Bevin’s pension plan creates while still guaranteeing a path to solvency for the system.
The shared responsibility plan changes the impact of the pension. It promises to bring no negative impact for current retirees or the benefits already earned by current teachers. It also seeks to negotiate a new tier of benefits. This plan argues that the change of benefit plan should not be changed to a defined benefit plan but to remain a defined contribution plan which would continue to include health care and pension. KEA’s rebuttal plan proposes changes to the eligibility for benefits as well. Benefits would only be available once the retiree’s age and years of service combine to the number eighty-five. Since KEA does not believe the governor’s choice of committee members to govern the retirement money would be knowledgeable enough and fair, its members are proposing to elect their own constituents for the job. KEA’s rebuttal plan greatly changes the new pension bill into a plan that does not punish the people who have been doing their share.
Many teachers support this rebuttal plan. One in particular is Janetta Gray, an English teacher at Warren East Middle School in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Like other teachers, Gray did not like the original plan put out by Bevin.
“The plan is actually illegal. The whole thing was completed behind closed doors and it goes directly against Bevin’s election promise. The pension will now be managed as a hedge fund and Bevin will be reaping the rewards,” Gray says about Bevin’s pension plan.
In fact, Bevin’s pension bill has already caused significant damage to the education community.
“The new teacher enrollment has already declined significantly,” Gray confesses.
Further, she reports that her school in particular has already seen a decline in eligible teacher applications for positions to be filled.
“Where there were between five and ten applicants for positions in years past, last year we only had two to three applicants per position.”
The fear among many educators is that the quality of teachers will decline without the traditional benefits, such as retirement. Gray mentions that she likes that the new plan only lists aspects that are part of an inviolable contract which protects benefits already earned, such as sick days saved up over time.
“KEA’s reform plan lessens the blow on the current educators.”
This new plan is better than the one before, but Bevin has not approved it. Although KEA’s reform plan alleviates some of the larger issues, Gray believes it will not work because teachers are not allowed social security.
“The reform plan is a step in the right direction, but it will not alleviate all of the issues that the current pension system has.”
The system is already so ineffective and poorly managed as it is. The reformed version of the new plan will not be enough to fix the crumbling pension system.
“The three percent of salary that is supposed to go into a healthcare fund has actually been shown to go into a general fund,” Gray says.
There is hope for this failing system. Eighty percent of school districts in Kentucky intend to give a day off to rally against Bevin’s proposal at the Capitol.
When asked if her school district would approve of this, Gray reveals, “Our superintendent has been great about all of this and says he will support this if we want to.”
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