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Despite Teacher Protests, Kentucky House Committee Advances Pension Board Bill

Liz Schlemmer

A House Committee has advanced a controversial bill that drew protests from hundreds of Kentucky educators in Frankfort Thursday.

The bill — House Bill 525 — would change the membership of the board of trustees that manages the teacher pension plan. On Wednesday, a teacher advocacy group called on educators to call in sick Thursday and arrive at the Capitol en masse to protest the bill. Hundreds showed up, flooding the bill’s committee hearing with the line wrapping across the lawn.

The bill would reduce the influence of the Kentucky Educators Association to nominate members of the pension board, which worried Fayette County teacher Jennifer Bailey that it would diminish teachers’ voices in pension decisions.

“If I don’t have a choice in where my retirement money goes, that I have to pay, then I want to make sure I’m represented on the board that oversees the pension,” Bailey said.

After news of the impending sick-out grew, bill sponsor Representative Ken Upchurch filed a revised bill. Upchurch said the board composition under the new proposal would include eight educator representatives out of the 13 spots on the board. It would include representatives nominated by several educator groups, instead of primarily the KEA.

“And so what we seek to do is to give them more control, give them more of a selection process, and put it in the hands of all educators,” he said.

But despite Upchurch’s explanation, teachers in the room at the committee hearing remained skeptical of a new bill version that was not yet publicly available to read.

Representatives who voted against the bill said the board of the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System has been operating well in its current form.

KEA president Stephanie Winkler says the association remains opposed to the new version of the bill, and is unhappy with the way it was made public last minute.

“Any time you’re not transparent and do anything behind closed doors, and not being upfront, letting people be engaged in the process does nothing to help any piece of legislation move forward,” she said.

The bill now heads to the House floor.

© 2019 89.3 WFPL News Louisville. 

Liz Schlemmer is WUNC's Education Policy Reporter, a fellowship position supported by the A.J. Fletcher Foundation. She has an M.A. from the UNC Chapel Hill School of Media & Journalism and a B.A. in history and anthropology from Indiana University.
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