Teachers worried about pension proposal

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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.

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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.

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Veronica Jean Seltzer joins ABC 36 as Anchor/Reporter. On most weekdays, you will see her reporting the news. VJ hails from a small horse farm outside New York City and most recently comes from South Bend, Indiana where she reported for the CBS and Fox affiliates. VJ holds a Master of Science in Journalism degree from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Tufts University. Her passion for journalism runs deep. It began as she studied graffiti as an ancient form of communication in Athens, Greece. While a student journalist in Morocco, she learned her most important journalistic lesson: good stories are about people. VJ loves life in and around Lexington. She feels most at home among horses and a diverse community of fascinating people. She enjoys reporting during the week and on the weekend she strives to bring her neighbors the news that matters most to them. VJ enjoys going to neighborhood events, exploring, horseback riding, skiing, sailing, and good movies. Look for her out and about in the community! VJ invites you to reach out to her with story ideas or just to say hello! Find her on Facebook at Veronica Jean Seltzer ABC 36, tweet her @VJS_ABC36, or email her at VSeltzer@wtvq.com. She looks forward to hearing from you!