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Teachers' Retirement Bill Clears Ky, House

A bill to create a new, fully funded hybrid tier for the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System was approved by the Kentucky House of Representatives Thursday.

If it were to become law, House Bill 258, sponsored by Rep. C. Ed Massey (R-Hebron) would go into effect for non-university members of KTRS who join the system on or after Jan. 1, 2022.

“We’re still gonna have to deal with this legacy deficit, but this will be a tourniquet that will stop the hemorrhaging that we’ve had with the increasing cost,” Massey said during the House State Government Committee Meeting today, two hours before legislators convened in the House Chambers to vote on the bill.

Kentucky teachers do not pay into Social Security, therefore they do not qualify for Social Security benefits. Retired teachers currently rely on a state pension plan.

According to Massey, HB 258 would save the state $3.57 billion over the next 30 years.

Massey said he began work on HB 258 during the 2020 legislative session, and he’s spent many months working with several legislators and various education groups to draft the legislation.

The Kentucky Schools Board Association, the Kentucky Association of Superintendents, the Kentucky Association of School Administrators, Jefferson County Teachers’ Association, Kentucky Education Association were involved in the process as well as universities, Massey said on the House Floor.

“We drafted the legislation. We went around the room and asked questions. We commented, we broke, and we came back together,” Massey added. “And it was an ongoing, rewarding process.”

“Like many other states, Kentucky is in the throes of an educator shortage," said Kentucky Education Association President Eddie Campbell in a statement. "That is real. And instead of addressing that problem by trying to make the profession more attractive, we are here today discussing a pension reform bill that will most likely reduce retirement benefits for future hires. We should be having conversations about increasing educator pay but, unfortunately for our educators and their students, we are not. 

“We should be talking about how to support new educators with paid professional development, experienced mentors, and fully resourced classrooms, but we aren’t talking about any of that, either. Those are the conversations we should be having. If changes are made that will decrease benefits available to new hires under TRS, they must not stand alone; they must be part of a comprehensive package that increases new educator pay, fully funds public schools, and takes a more balanced approach to the needs of Kentucky public school students.”

HB 258 would create a safety net, or stabilization fund, in the event the funds drop too low, therefore preventing the pension from being underfunded, Massey said, adding it provides new teachers with something they can count on.

The bill also would change when teachers can retire. Instead of retiring in 27 years, new hires under this tier would have to work 30 years to be eligible for benefits. New hires would be able to retire at age 55 with 30 years of experience, age 60 with 10 years of experience, or age 65 with five years of experience.

Massey said this gives people who have not made teaching a lifelong career an incentive to become a teacher later in life.

On the House Floor, several legislators said they liked some portions of the bill and how Massey worked with education groups to draft the legislation, but would not be voting in favor of it.

Rep. McKenzie Cantrell (D-Louisville) said HB 258 would be putting a burden on new hires and Rep. Patti Minter, D-Bowling Green, said pay raises for teachers should be the priority.

HB 258 passed the House 68-28 and will now move on to the Senate for consideration.

From the Legislative Research Commission and staff reports

Photo: Ed Massey (LRC)

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