Kentucky Pension Bill Affects the Future of Teachers

A recent bill was passed that cuts benefits for Kentucky teachers that leaves current and future educators outraged


Jennifer Van Bever

Hundreds of teachers gathered at Kentucky’s Capitol to protest the passing of the new budget bill. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Van Bever, alumna who received her master’s degree in secondary education at IU Southeast.

Kaitlin Porter, Staff Reporter

A sign reads, “Fund it, Don’t Cut It.” as teachers unite around the Kentucky capitol building, in Frankfort, following the passing of a new budget bill.

The protest comes after more than 20 counties in Kentucky closed schools Friday, March 30, due to teacher call-ins as a form of protest. The Kentucky Senate and House passed a new bill which cuts pensions given by the state. The bill affects state employees, like teachers, in particular.

The Break Down

Senate Bill 1 was opposed by Kentucky teachers which held a cut for their benefits. It suggested cutting spending on educational programs, along with retirement benefits for teachers. The bill was not passed.

Elements of this bill were hidden within Senate Bill 151, which regarded sewage services. The large bill, 291 pages to be exact, was passed in the Kentucky House and the Senate March 29.

The Kentucky Education Association, said to CNN, “It stripped all the ‘local provisions of wastewater services’ language out of SB 151 and replaced it with many of the harmful provisions of SB1.”

According to SB 151, this affects teachers with the following conditions:

  • The annual cost of living will remain at 1.5 percent,
  • Sick days put towards retirement are limited, and
  • New hires will enter a hybrid cash plan, similar to a 401K, that is funded by members through a contribution of a specified amount.

The new conditions will not affect currently retired teachers, however, will most likely be a challenge when hiring new employees due to the lack of benefits.

Kentucky teachers currently have some of the highest attendance rates in the country. The reason behind this is teachers were able to use sick days towards retiring early, but with the new bill, teachers will not have this option.

The bill officially went into effect on Tuesday, April 10, after Governor Matt Bevin signed off on the revisions.

The fact that our pension would be added into a wastewater bill is quite disheartening. It sends a message that we are trash.

— Hailey Duff, education senior

The Battle

Governor Bevin praised the passing of the bill by tweeting, “Tonight 49 members of the Kentucky House and 22 members of the Kentucky Senate voted not to keep kicking the pension problem down the road … Anyone who will receive a retirement check in the years ahead owes a deep debt of gratitude to these 71 men & women who did the right thing.”  

Others had different opinions.

Kentucky Attorney General, Andy Beshear, tweeted his thoughts of the bill, “Moments ago, Republican leadership amended a sewage bill to include ‘pension reform.’ They are now forcing lawmakers to vote on the bill without time to read its 291 pages, with no testimony from the public and without any actuarial analysis. This is government at its worst.”

After Bevin signed the bill, Beshear announced that he will be challenging the governor and the bill through a lawsuit in the court system. News of the challenge has not been released.

Beshear is not the only one opposing the bill. Hundreds of Kentucky teachers gathered outside the capital April 5 to protest the new bill.

A retired Muhlenberg County teacher, Rhonda Wood, told WLKY her thoughts during the rally.

“I think there were too many secret committee meetings this morning, they were not open to the public and that’s a disgrace,” Wood said.

The passing of the bill leads to many counties having to close school due to teacher call-ins. Local school systems in Jefferson and Oldham counties were among those closed.


The bill affects the benefits of new educators who will be hired into the system following the passing of the bill. Kentucky education hopefuls express their concerns.

Hailey Duff, education senior, plans on educating students in Kentucky following her graduation this May.

Duff has always planned on teaching in Kentucky. She is native from the area and never thought about teaching in any other school system other than Jefferson County. She believes that her heart will forever be in Kentucky, however, it is hard to know that her future career is not seen as important to the government.

“The fact that our pension would be added into a wastewater bill is quite disheartening. It sends a message that we are ‘trash,’” Duff said. “It seemed very sneaky the way government officials went without passing this bill. It makes me wonder what they will do next to hinder education.”

Kendra Stevens, education junior, dislikes how the pension was added into the bill formerly only made regarding sewage waste.

“The hardest part for me to grasp is just how shady everything was done regarding the bill,” Stevens said. “The fact that they are taking away pensions that were promised is unacceptable, but the way the bill was executed is pathetic.”

Stevens expresses concern for her former Kentucky educators.

“While teachers are clearly not in it for the money, they still have to live, and this may be easier in different states that have different laws surrounding teachers and their benefits,” Stevens said.

Stevens has seen anger and sadness on social media from current educators who she has maintained a connection with. She says it is disheartening to see the people who influenced her to become an educator upset over a bill which has major impacts on their lives.

Breanna Jaggers, education senior, is currently student teaching within the Jefferson County Public School System, which covers the Louisville area.

Jaggers says she saw frustration from supervising teacher who showed concerns for her future retirement benefits.

Teachers and students filled the Capitol Building in Frankfurt, Kent., making their voices heard. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Van Bever, alumna who received her master’s degree in secondary education from IU Southeast.

“I’m not going to lie, the new Kentucky pension law was quite the smack in the face,” Jaggers said. “I have busted my butt in college for four years to pursue my dreams of becoming an educator and then I’m faced with this new law just a few months before graduation.”

The trio says the bill makes them questions whether they want to continue their careers in Kentucky. Although all consider their hearts in be in the Kentucky education system, not being supported by the government can be hard to accept.

“I would consider teaching in Indiana, it’s close to home,” Duff said.

Jaggers believes she will stay within the Kentucky School Systems regardless of benefits at this time. However, if these conditions become an issue she would consider crossing the bridge.

Stevens says teaching outside of Kentucky was something she had never even thought about until the passing of the bill.

All of the women were particularly impressed with the rally on the capitol. Stevens says it was inspiring to see people in her future profession stand up for something they are passionate about.

“It brought more attention to what teachers in Kentucky are really given and what their benefits are, and how much they sacrifice just to be able to be the best teacher they are capable of being,” Stevens said.

Moving forward, Duff hopes for change in the education system.

“I do strongly believe teachers are the backbone to every other career choice,” Duff said. “How far would you be if you never attended school and learned how to read and write? Teachers are undervalued for the amount of work they put in.”