Teachers from around Kentucky descended on Frankfort Friday morning to protest a surprise pension bill that was rushed through the state legislature the day before. About two dozen school districts were shut down because of teacher walk outs.
At least 500 people—most of them teachers—crowded the state Capitol building.
Sonya Curren, a high school teacher from Scott County, said she was worried about schools being able attract people who want to spend their career teaching.
“It is so hard for educators with their basic salary to do any extra saving or investing outside of what our state provides for them. New teachers coming in, it does not look like a very viable program to me.”
The pension bill, which quickly passed out of a committee both chambers of the legislature on Thursday evening, would no longer offer defined-benefit pensions to newly hired teachers, instead enrolling them in cash-balance plans that rely on stock market growth.
It would also raise the retirement eligibility age for future teachers and sick days accumulated after Dec. 31 of this year would not count towards retirement benefits for all teachers.
Republican Gov. Matt Bevin has voiced his support for the bill. Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear says he’ll challenge it in court.
Denise Harrod, a middle school teacher from Lexington, said lawmakers were unfairly targeting teachers, instead of spreading the pension burden across all taxpayers.
“Maybe we should balance the budget on everybody’s backs. I’m not opposed to paying extra taxes.”
The pension bill would mostly affect new teachers, but would also tweak benefits of current teachers and state workers hired in the last four years.
Kentucky has an estimated $41 billion pension liability—the amount of money the state is short on to pay in retirement benefits over the next 30 years.
But lawmakers say the new pension bill will only save the state about $300 million over the next 30 years—less than 1 percent of the entire pension debt.
Gov. Bevin Tweeted out his support for the bill on Thursday evening, saying that supporters “voted not to keep kicking the pension problem down the road.”