There has been much information reported in the media recently about the current pension situation for state employees and the Governor’s proposal for addressing the shortfall of funds within each of the five pensions. Both pension systems for school employees (CERS-County Employee Retirement System & TRS- Teacher Retirement System) are uniquely different in how they are structured; therefore, they are at different funding levels. Because of this, we remain confident that a shared responsibility plan is best for all school employees and we do not support the 401K defined contribution plan that is meant to be a supplemental retirement in the private sector. Since teachers do not receive Social Security, a defined benefit plan is necessary to provide teachers with a guaranteed retirement. Furthermore, we have direct evidence that the current system works if funded at actuarially required levels.
Up to this date, the only solution proposed from the Governor and our elected officials involves the reduction of benefits for our current and future employees. There has been no discussion shared with educators about how to increase revenue and fully fund the existing system. A loss in pension benefits is a great concern to education leaders across the state because it will hamper our ability to attract, hire, and retain the highest quality of people to serve our students. We currently experience a state-wide shortage in certified teachers, substitute teachers, bus drivers, and custodians and a reduction in pension benefits is certain to exacerbate this condition.
In an effort to allow our staff to be a part of the solution, I have decided to provide our classified and certified staff an opportunity to travel to Frankfort and share their concerns directly with legislators. This decision was shared with our Board members during our monthly meeting Thursday evening. I recognize this may cause an inconvenience for some families (similar to inclement weather days) but I find this to be an important opportunity for our staff. It is difficult to imagine a more critical time in K-12 public school education, and I am proud that our Board members unanimously agree.
At this time, I do not know when or if school will be cancelled, but you can trust us to provide you with as much advanced notice as possible. I anticipate that we will have anywhere from 48 hours to one week to notify families in preparation for cancelling classes. We have notified Community Education of our intent to close school, and we encourage you to reach out to them with questions regarding childcare if you routinely utilize their services.
Although the cancellation of school is a Superintendent decision, it is important to note that our Board of Education members will decide whether or not the school calendar is amended to make up this day with students. I will recommend that we not amend the calendar for students.
The challenge facing our legislators goes far deeper than just the financial stability of current and future employees. Any reduction to the public school employee pension will have a severe, negative impact on economic development and the quality of life across our Commonwealth because it will impact the quality of employees who choose to enter the education profession. Although it is a "calling" for most educators, it is naive to dismiss how compensation impacts an individual's decision of which career to pursue. In addition, quality public school education levels the playing field for many of our students, and we have a moral obligation to be their voice in this time of great uncertainty.
In closing, it is my hope that our entire community supports the decision to allow our staff to travel to Frankfort when/if classes are cancelled. In the meantime, please share any questions or concerns that you may have with your child’s principal. Take Care!