by Don Weber –
FRANKFORT — Many school district teachers and administrators are uneasy about recommendations for changes to the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System, which include moving teachers to a combination of Social Security participation and a defined-contribution plan as well as setting the retirement age to 65 as opposed to the current 27 years of service.
One legislator who is in a position to understand teachers concerns is Rep. Derrick Graham, D-Frankfort, who is a retired teacher from the Frankfort Independent School District. He questions whether the consultants who came up with the recommendations, PFM, got sufficient feedback from people in the education community.
“I know the teachers are working harder, they’re smarter, they’re doing more, they work longer, a school could start at 8:00 and end at 2:30, but most teachers do not leave the confines of their building until 6 or 7 o’clock because they’re working to be better educators, and I think the recommendations that were made were made without consulting or at least talking with the profession,” Graham said.
“If you start out as a 21-year-old teacher, and the recommendations that they’re making is that you will teach until you are 65, most teachers will tell you that’s an impossible choice.”
Graham admits that talk of changing KTRS funding could result in an avalanche of current teachers retiring.
“There are a lot of experienced people, people with institutional knowledge that are looking to retire soon because of what possibly could come, although it was stated to us at the meeting yesterday that this did not apply to those who are already in the system, it was more or less to new hires, “ Graham said.
Graham believes that when one accurately evaluates the teaching profession, consideration has to be given to how much additional education must be obtained beyond a four-year degree.
“When a teacher graduates from college, they’re expected within a number of years to achieve their master’s degree and their Rank 1 and anything above that, and so most teachers spend their first few years while they’re in the classroom, also taking additional course work to obtain that master’s or Rank 1 degree,” Graham said.
Graham fears that if the recommended changes to KTRS are implemented, less people would be inclined to enter to profession.
“I would hope that you wouldn’t take a knee jerk reaction, and most educators will study the issue,” he said. “They’re going to look at it, but there could be a possibility of that happening, and we’re going to have to as legislators come up with ways to finance new reforms, and that’s not what’s been on the table.”
The Public Pension Oversight Board is currently studying the recommendations and will meet next on Sept. 25.