N. KY superintendent concerned that potential pension changes will drive teachers to surrounding states

09/13/2017 02:21 PM

BURLINGTON – With a special session addressing pension reform looming, school teachers and administrators are anxious to see what changes might be on the horizon for the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System (KTRS).

Last month, PFM Management recommended changes to KTRS which include moving teachers to a combination of Social Security participation and a defined-contribution plan.

Boone County Schools Superintendent Randy Poe is concerned that if those recommendations become reality, it would require already financially strapped school districts to spend more money in contributions to the retirements of their teachers.

“If we have teachers go into Social Security, we now have a Social Security match, we didn’t have that before,” Poe said. “It’s like in 2011, they said they (the General Assembly) solved the health insurance crisis for teachers in the retirement fund, the costs shift back to the district.”

Some believe that the proposed changes could lead to a run of teachers retiring all at once, but Poe doesn’t see that happening, at least as long as lawmakers come up with a workable solution.

One thing that does concern Poe is the fact that his district is close to Ohio and Indiana, giving teachers the opportunity to explore teaching in states outside of Kentucky.

“In this particular area, our teachers do have choices,” Poe said. “They can drive within 10 minutes, they can be paid more, and they have a better retirement system. So, it is going to be more difficult for the future, to attract the quality.”

Another concern Poe has is that a change in the teacher retirement system could lead to fewer people entering the profession down the road.

“When you look at cost of return on investment for four year degrees, teaching and social work are the 2 lowest on the board,” Poe said. “To go to the University of Kentucky, costs you $40,000 a year between your tuition payment and your room and board, so when you’re looking at $120,000 investment, just to get your education, then you have to do a Master’s degree on top of that, and you’re looking at a starting salary of $35,000, when you can have a business degree or the others, and their average starting salary is in the $50,000 range, you can do the math yourself, and that is a concern to me.”

Another one of the recommendations from PFM would set the teachers retirement age at 65 instead of the current 27 years of service.

While Poe doesn’t believe that everyone expects teachers to stay in their positions until that age, those that don’t will not get full retirement benefits.

“If they just come out with a defined contribution plan, they’re going to tell people that you don’t have to work until you’re 65, but you’re going to have to work until you’re 65 to get your Social Security, so if you combine those two things, you are going to have to work longer.”


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