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Bill to address Kentucky teacher pension liability focuses on sick day accumulation

Lebanon Senator Jimmy Higdon
Stu Johnson
Lebanon Senator Jimmy Higdon

As often the case, legislation related to teacher retirement generated significant debate Wednesday in the State Senate. It modifies teacher sick day accumulation as a means of reducing the overall pension system liability. It received Kentucky Senate backing. Bill Sponsor Jimmy Higdon said teachers won’t lose existing sick days. The Republican from Lebanon said the bill does set the yearly accumulation of sick days at ten.

“Whether you are a teacher or an administrator, everybody has the same benefit. Right now that’s not true. The benefits..we have some school districts that are giving 15 sick days. We have some giving ten,” said Higdon.

Higdon said the change would not amount to significant savings, but it would help lessen increased costs. Speaking in opposition to the bill, Lexington Democratic Senator Reggie Thomas says reducing the quantity of sick days could lead to a bigger need for substitutes. He says that would occur if teachers take more sick days now instead of accumulating them.

Also voting no was GOP Leitchfield Senator Stephen Meredith. He said it’s a complicated bill and interpretation is always an issue.

“And I believe because this information..misinformation is gonna exasperate our situation with the teacher shortage both in folks saying I’m gonna leave the profession because I’m being picked upon and those who say I’m not going into the profession because of what’s happened to the retirement benefit system,” said Meredith.

Louisville Democratic Senator Cassie Chambers Armstrong echoed that concern, saying the message should not be about lessening benefits but instead about increasing pay.

Higdon, meanwhile, said teachers will not lose what they’ve accumulated thus far. It only pertains to sick day accumulations going forward. And the Lebanon Senator said the bill also calls on the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System to conduct an analysis statewide about sick day totals. Higdon said that would allow lawmakers to know what the pension liability is.

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Stu has been reporting for WEKU for more than 35 years. His primary beat is Lexington/Fayette government.
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