Local teachers protest pension bill

Cesar Mills
March 31, 2018

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear tweeted a video Thursday night, saying he was "outraged" over the passage of a pension bill by legislators.

They did it in response to one of the worst-funded public retirement systems in the country and in defiance of a powerful teachers union that vowed political retribution.

Westerfield supports the "hybrid cash balance plan" where members will contribute a specific amount to their accounts.

Crystal Staley, attorney general spokeswoman, told CNN on Friday afternoon that Beshear plans to pursue a lawsuit if and when the governor signs the current bill, saying it violates the inviolable contract for state workers.

"A lot of sick days are going to be used today", said Patricia Lea Collins, the Head Start and preschool director for the Pike County school system.

SB 151 - an act relating to the local provision of wastewater services - passed the Kentucky House by a 49-46 vote, and it passed the Kentucky Senate by a 22-15 vote. Sen. Two additional legislative days remain after Bevin's veto period to override vetoes and pass bills, but any legislation passed in those two days could not be overridden if later vetoed by Bevin.

Sinnette said he and many of his colleagues did not anticipate the bill's introduction, let alone passage, when they walked into the Capitol.

As for the per-pupil SEEK funding for K-12 public education, the House bill was slightly more generous with $4,055 to the Senate bill's $3,984 - though both would be an increase from the current level.

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"I had made a commitment to the teachers and retired teachers and folks in education as well as the county workers within my district that unless we came with a plan that was agreeable to them, I would vote against the legislation", said York. "We also appreciate (State Rep.) John Sims for voting no on this bill".

Bentley said he did not approve of the process by which the bill was passed.

Hundreds of Kentucky teachers called in sick Friday to protest last-minute changes to their pension system, forcing almost two dozen districts to close while angry educators rallied outside the governor's office to demand he not sign the bill. They reported that the state is at least $41 billion short of the money it needs to pay retirement benefits over the next 30 years. The House and Senate gave the bill final approval within a matter of hours Thursday night.

On Friday, Beshear said that legislators broke their promise but that he would keep his promise to sue.

"I haven't seen everything I need to see to make a total judgement", he said. More than 20 counties have announced school closures - many citing an inability to cover teacher absences - as teachers and supporters rally behind the hashtag #120Strong on Twitter, calling for all 120 counties to close their doors, according to a news story published by Louisville Courier Journal on the Kentucky Press News Service.

"It's a sad day in Kentucky when the perception is that teachers aren't held in high regard", he said. A state law requires the bill to have a financial analysis before passing.

"How can you do that when there's really 300 other pages to deal with in that bill - and who knows what they say?" she said, adding that one of her concerns regards school employees hired after January 1, 2019, and the uncertainty of their pensions. "If there is support in the Commonwealth, I will be part of that", Albright said. "This reform ensures retirees continue to receive their monthly income while future public employees and teachers will have a solid, protected and secure retirement that more closely reflects their contributions, those of their employers and actual, accurate returns on their invested funds by their systems".

Other reports by GizPress

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