Kentucky pension reform could impact retention of minority teachers

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The Kentucky legislature passed a bill that could transform the state’s traditional pension system and offer new teachers a cash balance system.

Teachers have joined together at the capitol to protest the new system that would be dependent on the stock market.

Patrenia Thomas teaches third, fourth and fifth grade math classes in the Jefferson County Public School system and said she is unsure how the state will attract new teachers.

“The state should support all teachers in Kentucky. Because the teachers are who ensure our future for our children and if you don’t have good teachers you’re not going to guarantee a good education for our children,” Patrenia Thomas said.

Patrenia Thomas has taught in JCPS schools for 22 years and has five years until she is able to retire but planned to continue teaching for thirty years before leaving the school system.

“It’s stressful because I planned my life based on my pension. 22  years that’s the only direction I’ve thought about because that’s already been planned,” Patrenia Thomas said.

Thomas’ daughter Patrice said she came to Western Kentucky University to study early childhood education in hopes of following in her mother’s footsteps who is a WKU graduate.

“Attending career day when I was a kid and going to her school and seeing her interact with the kids and how they were responding to her and how they were eager to learn and just be in her classroom,” Patrice Thomas said.

Patrice Thomas is attending WKU with the Minority Education Retention scholarship. The initiative requires her to teach in the state every year she received money.

She originally planned to teach her entire career in Kentucky but said she is now looking into alternatives that ensure her financial security.

“I feel like my time has been wasted at Western. I feel like I’ve dedicated five years to this major and then for them to throw this in my face. I don’t want my time and studies to go to waste,” Patrice Thomas said.

Patrice Thomas said she planned on getting her master’s after gaining experience in the classroom but now is considering enrolling after completing her undergraduate program in May of 2019.

Patrenia Thomas has encouraged her daughter to look into relocating to states that have good benefits for teachers.

“It’s disappointing because I wanted her to stay in Kentucky and give back to students in this area. Because there is a shortage of minority teachers and it saddens me to tell her to relocate out of Kentucky.”

The bill currently waits on the signature of Gov. Matt Bevin and is an effort to save Kentucky’s pension system which according to Global Credit portal is one of the worse in the country.



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