Educator unveil alternate proposal

BY MIKE JAMES
THE DAILY INDEPENDENT

 

LEXINGTON Kentucky educators have a counterproposal to Gov. Matt Bevin’s pension reform plan and they hope their blueprint will at least serve as fodder for negotia-tions.

The Shared Responsi-bility Plan unveiled Monday is a

twotier approach that retains benefits under the existingplan for already retired teachers; changes for new teachers would retain what educators consider essential components, but would reduce risk to the state,according to Kentucky Association of School Superintendents executive director Tom Shelton.

Education groups are calling for a plan that would retain the defined benefit component for all teachers, under which payments are predetermined based on a formula that takes into account earnings and years of service.

The plan would offer new teachers a definedcontribution option, under which contributions would be invested in a 403(b) plan, similar to a 401(k) and benefits would be paid from earnings.

The new tier would increase the level of service required for full benefits, possibly under a so-called rule of 85, which combines age and years of service.

It also includes a provision for teachers to continue applying unused sick leave as a salary credit for calculation of their retirement benefits.

However, it would cap the number of days for current teachers and the provision would not be available for the new-teacher tier.

The key to the counterproposal is that it acknowledges the state’s need to cut costs and risks, and teachers will share the burden of doing so, according to Shelton.

Bevin’s proposal calls for a gradual transition to the 401(k) defined contribution system and cuts benefits for current teachers.

It also jettisons sick leave accrual for retirement benefit purposes.

However, it does not cut current retiree benefits or raise the retirement age required for full benefits.  Among the chief reservations about Bevin’s proposal is the effect on teacher recruitment and retention, according to several local superintendents who attended a briefing in Lexington on the counter proposal.

Kentucky’s pension system for years has been a top incentive for recruiting into a historically underpaid profession, they said.

“We don’t want to give up the incentives because already it is so tough to recruit and keep teachers,” said Boyd County Interim Superintendent Bill Boblett, a former principal at the district’s middle school.

“Under this plan there is still an incentive to work, to go into education,” Russell Superintendent Sean Horne said.

Teachers don’t like the defined contribution plan because of the risks inherent in stock market investments, according to Greenup Superintendent Sherry Horsley.

They also want to keep their sick day accrual.

“We have earned our sick days over decades. We come to work sick because we have a passion for educating students,” Horsley said.

Also, when teachers call in sick, the district has to round up substitutes, which are in short supply, she said.

Bevin’s plan pressures current teachers to make difficultdecisions on when to retire out of fear they may lose benefits, Horne said.

The fear at the district level is of mass retirements leaving multiple vacancies that would be difficult to fill, he said. “We would take a big hit,” he said.

Educators are talking with lawmakers who are interested in incorporating their proposal into a bill, Shelton said.

Education officials would prefer such a bill be introduced in the 2018 regular session of the General Assembly rather than at a special session this fall, he said.

(606) 326-2652 | mjames@dailyindependent.com





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