Reader: Governor waging war on public education

Dear Editor,

I am currently in my 10th year teaching in the Marshall County School District. As far as I am concerned, we have the best public school system and community support in the state of Kentucky. Many in our community have called, emailed, tweeted, etc. our state legislators about the governor’s proposal for pension reform. They have told their stories of how this plan would negatively affect our students, schools, teachers and community. Thank you!

With that being said, the war is still not over. Make no mistake, the term “war” is the correct term because it is a war on public education. It started last year with charter schools and has continued with the governor’s 505-page pension proposal. This assault on public education in the Commonwealth will affect every citizen of Kentucky. Your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins, etc. will suffer because they will not receive a high quality public education if a bill like the governor’s proposal is passed. We will have teacher shortages because no one will want to enter the profession. If they do enter the profession, we will lose new teachers to surrounding states that have not decimated their public schools and demoralized the people who devote their lives to public education. Our communities will suffer. Public schools will not be able to produce work-ready graduates because of teacher shortages and extra financial burdens placed on school districts. This, plus many more ideas in the proposal, is why the governor’s proposal must not see the light of day.

An independent analysis of the governor’s proposal was recently released. An article in the Courier Journal stated that the governor’s proposal, which switches all new teachers to a 401(a) instead of a defined benefits pension, would cost $4.4 billion more over the next 20 years to fully fund than our current defined benefit pension model and only be at 71 percent funded by 2038. If the current defined benefit system is fully funded, the article stated that for the same time period the plan would cost $4.4 billion less than the governor’s plan and be at 80 percent funded by 2038. This should make it evident to lawmakers that the governor’s plan is bad for Kentucky as well as for teachers. In my opinion, switching to a 401(a) retirement only benefits the companies that charge investment fees when investing money into the stock market. It certainly does not benefit the citizens of Kentucky.

The statistics from the independent analysis also confirms that Kentucky’s pension problem is at the core a funding issue. Switching new hires to a 401(a) is not the answer and will not solve any of the problems. This analysis shows that our current defined benefit pension is cheaper for Kentucky and more solvent if properly funded. This is why, moving forward, our legislators must look at funding first before any talks of pension reform. In addition, legislators should talk with constituents and bring all stakeholders to the table when crafting pension bills. The governor has proven that doing this behind closed doors and not involving stakeholders is bad for Kentucky and its citizens.

Please keep contacting your state legislators. Urge them to find funding first and that a defined benefit pension system is what current and future teachers must have. The legislative hotline number is 1-800-372-7181.

Luke Inglish
Marshall County Education Association, President