Kentucky pension crisis could force dedicated teachers out of classroom

MARSHALL COUNTY, KY – How will Kentucky’s pension crisis affect your child’s education?

The recommendation from consultants that some state retirees convert to 401Ks instead of a state pension plan has left some state workers desperate for answers.

Public school systems across the state have asked for help. Tuesday’s is one of several forums where state leaders are meeting with local teachers to answer their questions and address their concerns.

State leaders are hoping they’ll inspire teachers to talk to their legislators, while teachers say they feel the state broke a promise.

Marshall County High School teacher Kim Morgan teaches her students.

Marshall County high school teacher Kim Morgan says, like anyone in the teaching profession, you make sacrifices for your students. “I only wanted to be a teacher, ever. I never want to be anything else, and I’m not sorry one moment that I’ve ever been a teacher,” she says.

And it’s because, for less pay and the joy of being a teacher, Morgan says she knew there was something waiting at the end of her career.

She says the government has let her down. “A pension is a promise, and we need to see that pension and promise guarantee for us,” Morgan says.

Right now, 13,500 teachers are eligible for retirement in Kentucky. That’s why state education leaders say if we don’t fix the pension problem, your child’s education could be at risk.

Kentucky Education Association President Stephanie Winkler

Kentucky Education Association President Stephanie Winkler says that’s why they’re helping host the forums, hoping they can ease fears in the teaching community. They also encourage teachers to contact their lawmakers.

Winkler says, “It’s definitely a serious consequence if you make bad choices and don’t think about what kind of detriment that could mean in our communities and our schools.”

Morgan says she’s scared for her future, her family’s future, and her community’s future. “It is really beginning to wear on everyone in the school system,” says Morgan.

A crisis that’s made a teacher who’s dedicated her life to her students say she doesn’t know if she’d make the same decision to be a teacher.

Morgan says, “I feel they’ve absolutely come back on a solemn promise. They need me, and I’ve never, ever come back on anything I promised them nor one of these kids…I’ve done everything they ever ask me to do and more.”

Winkler says the Kentucky Education Association has been fielding more and more calls from teachers with questions about the possibility of early retirement.

Winkler says if the state went to a 401K plan for teachers, most teachers would walk away with $30,000 to $40,000 for the rest of their retirement.

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