Bevin’s plan for pensions causes teachers to rise up in protest

Recently, KY governor Matt Bevin introduced a bill changing teachers’ retirement into a 401k instead of a pension. This would include having teacher pay out of pocket for health care benefits and freezing the Cost of Living Adjustment for the next five years. Bevin has since called teachers, or people who oppose the bill, liars, greedy, hoarders, and unsophisticated.

With the majority of KY teachers opposing this proposal, many took to Frankfort to protest on the stairs of the capital building. Protestors called for reform with the tax code, rather than taking it from teachers’ retirement. The protestors were diverse, including retired educators, administrators of different schools and districts, college professors, legislatures, bystanders, superintendents and public-school teachers. One teacher among the crowd was HC English teacher Jessica Andrews.

“We have to get out there.”  Andrews said. “It is an imperative right now. Teachers and public education and therefore public students are under attack right now. [Bevin and supporting politicians] need to see, they need to hear, they need to understand that these are real people with real families and hopefully that’ll impact them on a human side.”

The pension system has been a draw for Kentucky teachers. The requirements here are some of the highest in the nation, needing a teacher to have a master’s degree, or be studying for one within the first five years of hiring, to get a position. With this level of education, usually the salary would be higher for that individual. However, the benefits of a state worker are attractive, and ending the pension system would be a deuterate for new educators.

“[The pension system] is a good draw for people who want to go in for education,” Donovan said. “I am concerned if the pension system is done away with that it will make it much more difficult to recruit and retain people in the education field.”

Kentucky is not the first state to attempt to change the pension system to a 401k, however.

“In West Virginia, they had a pension system similar to our current one, and they moved to a 401k,” HC social studies teacher Elise Perry said. “Now the state is going back and trying to rebuild the pension system because they ended up with a teacher shortage. And I think that would happen in Kentucky.”

HC has seen its own activism. Teachers are participating on a Wear Red for pension, emailing their representatives, and showing up to the capital. The pension bill would have an impact on every public-school teacher, leaving them to worry about their future plans.

“I have three kids, and I am raising them to leave the world better than how they found it,” Andrews said. “I don’t want a life where they are someday taking care of me. That’s my job to take care of them and give the wings they need.”

The bill does not have a set day to be considered, as many of the decisions have been made without any publicity. This, along with Bevin’s comments on teachers’ integrity, has led teachers to feel left out of the conversation.

“I am offended by [the secrecy of the decision making]. If you’re going to make a decision on something, you should involve stakeholders,” Donovan said. “You had just a limited number of legislatures involved in this. It wasn’t even as if the entire Republican caucus was involved, it was just a select number of legislatures.”

Because of Bevin’s previous actions of strengthening charter schools by giving state funds, speculation of the motive of this bill has also been controversial.

“Honestly, to me, this whole process seemed to make a sturdier frame-work for charters,” Donovan said. “Because if you can undermine public school teachers, then you can make it easier for people to decide to teach at a charter school.”

KY legislation begins in January, making the bill up for vote then if the governor does not call a special session. Until then, people can voice their opinions on the matter by emailing their representatives.