BOWLING GREEN, Ky.
Wednesday, Gov. Matt Bevin unveiled a new plan that he says will save Kentucky’s debt-laden pension system.
“This plan requires us to not kick the can down the road,” he said in a press conference, according to a video posted on his website. “It requires us to fund the actual amount every single year for the next 30 years. That’s how it’s going to get paid for.”
The plan would transition teachers from pension retirement plans into 401(k) plans.
Bowling Green Independent School District superintendent Gary Fields said this move would have a huge toll on the school district.
While current employees would continue in the pension system until 27 years of teaching, teachers looking to work beyond those 27 years would not be able to accrue the benefits available in the current system after 2023.
Fields said this effectively forces teachers in to retirement after 27 years.
According to his count, if all BGISD staff up for retirement take the option in 2023, one in four teachers will retire.
Tara Coomes, science teacher at Bowling Green High School said if the plan went into effect she would retire at 27 years.
“I love my job and I have planned to work past 27 years,” she said,” but I have to have money to pay the bills and send my own children to college.”
Additionally, Fields said, without pensions or higher pay, young people will not want to go into teaching in this state.
“It’s already a tough sell,” he said. “And this plan will make it a tougher sell.”
Coomes voiced similar concerns that the plan will create a lack of qualified and willing educators.
“There go all the 37 year teachers, all the mentors, all the older teachers full of passion who get better every year,” she said.
Coomes said that she is afraid for the future of Kentucky schools.
“Even if you’re not a teacher, this effects you,” Coomes said. “Your kids go to school. These graduates will work for you one day. Do you want them in schools with 45-student classes or no AP programs?”
Several times at the press conference, Bevin said his plan should make teachers happy.
"If you are a retiree, if you are working to be a retiree at some point, you should be rejoicing,” Bevin said.
However, Coomes said the plan has her colleagues less than optimistic.
“I have not talked to a single administrator or teacher who likes this idea,” she said. “I can’t imagine why he would do this. Bevin acts like he is for the teachers. This plan is not for the teachers.”
Abby Potter is a photojournalism student based in Bowling Green, Ky.
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