Thousands of KY teachers show up in Frankfort to protest HB 525

Teachers packed the committee meeting room where House Bill 525 was discussed.
Teachers packed the committee meeting room where House Bill 525 was discussed.(WAVE 3 News)
Updated: Feb. 28, 2019 at 8:22 PM EST
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FRANKFORT, KY (WAVE) - On a day when Jefferson County Public Schools and other districts across the state canceled classes due to teacher call-outs, a House committee approved a bill that would impact the management of the state retirement system for many of those teachers.

House Bill 525 reorganizes the board of trustees for the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement Systems. The bill made it out of committee Thursday and will continue its way towards a final vote.

Educators marched on Frankfort on Thursday to follow the bill that could ultimately affect their pensions. Teachers said they want to get ahead of any changes that could affect public school education.

Kentucky’s $43 billion pension deficit needs a solution, but many educators say cutting funds to public education is not it.

“They keep throwing out raising taxes [as the alternative] and that gets the public saying, ‘no one wants their taxes raised,’” Crystal Walts-Paulin, a JCPS teacher, said.

Walts-Paulin said even though HB 525 doesn’t address specific pension reform, it’s still a loss for educators.

“The Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement Systems board has traditionally had a lot of representation for teachers, so this is a power grab to take that away from teachers and give it to the governor,” Chris Tobe, a former retirement board trustee, said.

Tobe said it is a mistake for HB 525 to get rid of provisions that ensure educators are on the Teachers’ Retirement System board of trustees.

“We are no longer waiting until they pass something to stand out here and chant into nothing,” Walts-Paulin said. “Now we are going to be part of the process.”

Walts-Paulin said the bill is in its early stages, but the future of public education and her pension is important to her. A line of educators from all over the commonwealth felt similarly.

“Ultimately we are out here because we firmly believe this is best for our students for our schools,” Heather Kirchdorfer, a Fayette County teacher, said. “We just hope that our lawmakers hear us and hear our concerns.”

On Thursday, several districts across the commonwealth canceled school. JCPS officials said 35% of teachers called off in the district. Some teachers said they are willing to call out again.

“We don’t want to be out," Walts-Paulin said. "We hate it, but we also have to take care of public education.”

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