The Kentucky Retired Teachers Association (KRTA) has launched a statewide grassroots campaign to protect the earned retirement security of thousands of retirees who served a career educating children. The campaign will advocate for fairness and fight political leaders in Frankfort who support forcing retired teachers to bail out elected officials’ mismanagement of Kentucky’s teacher retirement system.
The Teach Frankfort to Pay Their Debts campaign is mobilizing more than 52,000 retired Kentucky teachers and has launched an informational website at www.TeachFrankfort.org.
Retired teachers across the state will engage with lawmakers to convey their concerns about the proposed pension reform measures. They also intend to tell elected officials that that a retired teacher’s pension is earned compensation that they contributed to from every single paycheck. Their pension isn’t a luxury – it pays the bill. Also, their pension is contractual pay and a compensation agreement that Kentucky teachers earned in exchange for years of teaching the state’s children.
“Kentucky’s teachers have never missed a single contribution into the Teachers Retirement System, but lawmakers in Frankfort have continuously failed to make the necessary contribution toward the pension system since 2007. That is the heart of the underfunding issue,” said Tim Abrams, KRTA executive director-elect. “The pension reform proposal from Governor Matt Bevin’s consultants has angered and scared retired teachers. Retired teachers are unable and unwilling to bail the state out of their mess.”
The state-managed Teacher Retirement System (TRS) was nearly fully funded in 2007 before lawmakers stopped fulfilling their obligation to make the necessary payments into the fund. Today, the TRS is less than 60 percent funded and carries an unfunded liability of between $15 billion to $20 billion.
“Educators will communicate to Frankfort lawmakers that they must pay their debts and continue to provide earned benefits to more than 52,000 retired teachers who educated millions of children across the Commonwealth,” Abrams said. “It is morally wrong to ask these teachers to suffer the consequences of this crisis when elected officials have mismanaged its finances. The state must continue on the path of making up its past missed payments to restore financial integrity retirement system.”
Gov. Bevin is expected to call the Kentucky General Assembly into special session later this fall to deal with the pension issue. This issue impact retired teachers, as well as active teachers and other state employees who provide vital public services.
The Bevin administration hired PFM Consulting Group, a national public-finance consulting firm, to examine Kentucky’s pensions systems — including TRS — and the firm made several recommendations on shoring up the systems.
Among the more troubling recommendations for retired teachers are:
- Clawing back Cost-of-Living Adjustments, known as COLAs, which could cost some retired teachers more than 20 percent of their benefits. This means teachers would pay back what they have already received.
- Drastically reducing retirees’ healthcare benefits and clawing back already earned benefits.
- Transitioning new teachers — and some current teachers — into Social Security a 401(k)-style defined contribution plan that would put existing public pension funding in further jeopardy while enriching Wall Street firms that charge hefty fees to manage these types of retirement plans
“While many retired teachers commend the Bevin administration for undertaking pension reform, this is a problem that has lingered for far too long in Frankfort and should not be solved by raiding teachers earned compensation,” Abrams said. “The Draconian recommendations by PFM Consulting simply are not the answer to this problem.”
Abrams encourages retired teachers and their families, friends, former students, and others to visit www.TeachFrankfort.org to learn more and how to contact Kentucky lawmakers and let them know pension system should not be bailed out by retired teachers.
“Our legislators need to hear from their constituents, especially retired teachers, on this important issue,” Abrams stressed. “Visit www.TeachFrankfort.org to learn how you can make a difference.”