Lines in the Sand

Mar 4, 2019 · 4 min read

Kentucky is a proud Commonwealth. We are fiercely independent, but are always ready to defend our brothers and sisters from oppression. This is most evident in our official state motto “United We Stand. Divided We Fall.”

For too long the Kentucky General Assembly has sought to divide our Commonwealth by trying to drive a wedge between Kentucky’s private and public employees.

We, the public employees of Kentucky, provide priceless and necessary services to the Commonwealth. Employees like teachers, law enforcement officers, social workers, department of transportation employees, and countless other state, city, and county workers serve, protect, and promote the common good of our fellow citizens of Kentucky. For many years we have endured reduced funding that continues to threaten the economic and social well-being of our citizens. The reduction to funding for necessary and basic services creates an environment and a society in which the basic needs of Kentuckians will not be able to be met. Specifically this reduction threatens the most precious and vulnerable of Kentuckians- our children.

Kentucky Teachers and other school employees have experienced and endured the following:

  1. Reduced funding for Early Childhood Education by 6.25% (2018)

2. ZERO dollars provided for required professional development (2018)

3. ZERO dollars provided for textbooks for students (2018)

4. Teachers received a 3% raise (2013–2014)

5. Teachers are required to pay an additional 3% to cover cost of their insurance when they retire therefore negating the raise from 2013–2014 (2015)

6. Reduction of Family Resource and Youth Service Center programs by 16% (2008–2018)*

7. SEEK funding per pupil reduced by 14%*

8. Increased taxes on retirement incomes. Began taxing retiree incomes at or above $31,000 rather than the previous $41,000 (2018)

9. ZERO dollars for Teacher Mentoring of New Teachers (2018)

10. Reduction in funds for Extended School Services (this includes after school tutoring programs) by 39%*

11. Reduced School Improvement Funds that provides assistance to low achieving schools by 6% (2018)

12. Student transportation funds have decreased by 40% since 2004 *When calculated for real dollars based on inflation rates

These continual and constant reduction in education spending at the state level has continued to exert more pressure on local districts to find grants, donors, and sponsors to offset costs and increase local taxes. Other school districts have been forced to end long standing reciprocal agreements with neighboring school districts potentially causing the closure of valuable community schools like the Pineville Independent School District in Southeastern Kentucky.

The Kentucky General Assembly also has consistently ignored the pleas of Kentucky Teachers to lobby Congress so that members can receive Social Security Death Benefits of their spouses. Legislators consistently raided the Retiree Insurance Fund as well as other excess funds and used the money to build olympic-style swimming pools, like the Stivers Center (since closed) in Barbourville as well as roads and bridges in political districts instead of ensuring adequate funding for Public Pensions.

Non-Teacher Public Employees have experienced and endured the following:

  1. Employee Health Insurance was removed from the inviolable contract resulting in the possibility of insurance not being available upon retirement (2003)

2. Increased age of retirement (2008)

3. Required to contribute an additional 1% of salary to health insurance contribution but is NOT credited to employees account- even with a cash out members do not receive this money (2008)

4. New Members moved to a Hybrid Cash Balance Plan (2014)

5. Removed use of sick time for retirement benefits (2014)

6. Removed inviolable contract for employees. Benefits can be changed at any time (2014)

7. Employers were allowed to cease participation in the system removing employees from further participation but preventing them from withdrawing their money while employed with that employer (2015)

8. Changed salary calculations for retirement. If a member had a “salary spike” that amount would not be calculated into benefits. Reducing pension payments. (2017)

9. Members received a 1% raise in 2008 and 2009.

10. Members received no raises 2010–2013.

11. Members received one 1% raise 2015–2018

As Public Employees we have exhausted all methods of communication with our legislators within the Kentucky General Assembly. We have called. We have emailed. We have spoken face to face through one-on-one meetings with our representatives. We have shown up at Town Hall Forums across the state. We have rallied at the Capitol and in our hometowns. Yet, the legislature continues to ignore our pleas to end these attacks. They continue to ignore our plea for new sources of revenue (casino gaming, medical marijuana tax, etc) to secure the Public Pensions and prevent the constant cuts to vital services. For the past year we have actively and diligently worked with both political parties to develop a permanent solution to no avail.We, the Public Employees of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, are prepared to strike for the betterment of our state, the survival of our communities, and the economic security of our families if the Kentucky General Assembly does any of the following:

  • Attempts to provide scholarship tax credits for private schools, thus reducing public monies available to public schools
  • Attempts to create a funding mechanism for Charter Schools, thus reducing public monies available to community public schools
  • Attempts to reduce Defined Benefit Pension benefits to public employees
  • Attempts to remove new/future school employees from the inviolable contract
  • Attempts to reduce salaries of public employees

These are our lines in the sand. Enough is enough.

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