Education students on the Kentucky pension crisis

Photo by Gabrielle Crooks

With the looming pension issues that Kentucky is dealing with, we decided to ask some Transy education students about the effect that this topic will have on their decision to teach as well as what impact they believe that this issue will have on public education around the state.

To give some background on Kentucky’s pension system, currently the pensions of Kentucky’s public workers are underfunded due to the money that was in the pension system being used to make up for budget shortfalls. According to Louisville’s Courier Journal, as of August 2017 the pension system is underfunded by $39 billion dollars between the pension fund as well as the retiree healthcare fund.

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin has been opposed to raising taxes in order to make up for this deficit, and proposed a restructuring of the current pension system in order to reduce the amount that the state will need to pay out in the future. This means that teachers that have currently paid in under the old system will be having the terms of their pensions changed and pensions for incoming teachers will look very different from that of teachers of the past.

According to the students interviewed, this change to the pension program will not affect their decision though. Senior education major Rebecca Facktor said, “No one teaches for the money.” This was echoed by junior education student Maggie Wallace, who said, “I’m doing this because I’m passionate about it.”

While issues surrounding the pension may not scare these two off, they can see why it could prevent others from pursuing teaching as a career. Wallace said, “Teachers already don’t get paid a lot, the pension is something that helps to make up for that. If the pension isn’t there, I can’t see a whole lot of incentives to teach.”

It appears that the pension may not be a major concern to these individuals, but the lack of a pension is something that they believe will prevent others from getting into the profession. This could have dire consequences for public education in the state, which already ranks near the bottom of all states.