WOODFORD COUNTY, Ky. (WTVQ)- We have heard a lot lately about pensions. Kentucky has a $33,000,000,000 shortfall that affects retirement for many state workers, public safety officers, and teachers. It is teachers in particular that we have been hearing from this week.
Tuesday night, Woodford County’s superintendent sat down with some of his staff after school to answer questions about the Governor’s proposed pension crisis fix.
Superintendent Scott Hawkins says beyond a love of teaching, a stable retirement draws many educators. A 401k like plan does not provide that same stability.
“We have contributed every month, every paycheck for our entire careers so there is a frustration that goes along with we’ve done our part. Why are we changing this now?” Hawkins said.
A stable retirement is a recruiting and retention tool. Some of the teachers at the meeting worry losing it could scare new educators away when, as it is, people are not flocking to the field.
“The biggest asset to public education is having good teachers and having them here for a long time,” Woodford County High School social studies teacher Ryan Lewis said.
Teachers also worry their peers will not stay for a long time. Hawkins says many veterans will have to make a big decision now. They will have to choose to retire sooner than they would like, or keep working, but have their retirement split between two plans.
The superintendent points out it is probably hard to make much if you are starting a 401k like plan at age 50. Lewis worries about losing institutional knowledge if more experienced teachers choose to retire sooner than planned.
“It would be very hard for schools to recover if they lost even three or four or five. Veterans can make a huge impact on the trajectory of student learning for a long time,” Lewis said.
Hawkins says the Commonwealth has an obligation to provide the best educational system it can. Anything that takes away from that does a disservice.
“I think this will be a big hit to public education. I really do and it hurts my heart because who it hurts the most is our kids,” Hawkins said.
“This isn’t the end of pension talk in Woodford County. The Kentucky Education Association will host a rally at the high school on Thursday.