OPINION: Jenkins Ind. superintendent says pension reform could cause an already difficult teacher shortage to be magnified, lead to fewer seasoned educators
Mountain Eagle, Whitesburg, Nov. 1, 2017
Pension change proposal and its effect on children
By MIKE GENTON, Superintendent Jenkins Independent Schools
You may be asking yourself, “Should I worry about proposed pension changes for teachers?” Well, the answer is a resounding YES! When looking at the changes to the inviolable contract the state has with retirees there a few things that you need to keep in mind.
Recruiting quality teachers in eastern Kentucky is a challenge, but for the most part districts and schools have been able to accomplish this difficult task. Now imagine a situation where, in all likelihood, there will be fewer college graduates choosing the field of education because the Defined Benefit is possibly going to be replaced with a Defined Contribution. If the percentage of students going into education dropped only by ten percent, it would cause an already difficult teacher shortage to be magnified. We need to be enticing more young people into the field of education and we are doing the exact opposite by proposing this legislation.
This proposed plan would penalize teachers for staying in the field of education after they have worked twenty-seven years. So, your child will have fewer seasoned educators in their classrooms. The mass exodus of experienced, qualified educators will leave schools scrambling to find teacher leaders with the expertise to help mentor younger staff members.
Your child will see their teacher less. Right now many teachers use very few sick days so they can use them to help increase their retirement. However, this plan would eliminate any motivation for teachers to save those days and they would use their allotted sick days each year. Which means your child would see more substitute teachers and their regular teacher less.
This plan could lead to classrooms having more students instead of fewer. As the pool of potential candidates for jobs becomes smaller that means teachers you have now in areas that students must get credit may see their class rosters swell. Classroom management would then become more challenging and there would be less opportunity for one on one and small group instruction.
We have made great strides in education over the past ten years, and we are likely to nullify all the hard work that has been done. Educators have been challenged to learn how to implement interventions for students who are falling behind, differentiate to meet the needs of all students in their classroom, and to teach these young people how to set goals and become college and/or career ready. Educating a child is a hard job, but teachers all across the state gladly come to work every day and accept that as their moral, ethical, and legal responsibility and all they ask for in return is for the State of Kentucky to live up their promise concerning pensions. In closing, this pension plan, in the current form, is not good for the future of public education in Kentucky. Contact your legislators and make your voice heard.