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Somerset Superintendent Says Pension Proposals Discourage Quality Teachers

Flickr/Creative Commons/ NCSSM

Solutions to Kentucky’s pension crisis proposed by Gov. Matt Bevin and Republican lawmakers have stirred opposition from educators.

One of the proposals that concerns Somerset Independent Schools Superintendent Kyle Lively is that unused sick days would no longer be calculated into teacher pension benefits after July 2023. He said that change could have a dramatic impact on his district’s 137 teachers and administrators, because a large percentage of them are the 22- to-23-year mark in their careers. He fears they may decide to retire earlier than they had planned.

“If those sick days are calculated in there it’s going to increase their retirement so much over the length of the time they’ll draw their pension, they just couldn’t afford to not make that decision. That's going to strip districts such as mine of quality employees that you really can’t replace, and especially in high volume you can’t replace them.”      

The Somerset superintendent is among many education leaders and teacher organizations also concerned about the proposal to switch teachers from a guaranteed pension to a 401(k) style retirement plan.

Lively said that change would leave school districts struggling to attract new teachers, with less attractive benefits.

“Finding people who truly see it as a career and they want to stay in education, to me when you put it into a defined contribution plan as opposed to a defined benefit plan, they can leave in 5-to-10 years. They’re not vested. They have no reason to stay. And people aren’t necessarily feeling valued either with that.”

A bill on the proposed pension changes for teachers and other state and county employees will be voted on in a special legislative session by the end of the year. If the proposals are made into law, they would go into effect in July 2018.

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