As a daughter of a 40-year high school English teacher (dad), the sister, and sister-in-law, of high school teachers (my brother Matt and his wife), and having myself been an instructor of American Government at the U.S. Naval Academy, I have a very personal connection to the importance of teachers and have been outraged by the disrespect that the Bevin administration (and Republicans in the General Assembly) have shown them over this outrageous grab at their pensions.
While I recognize that education is overwhelmingly a state and local issue, it is not entirely so.
As many know, Kentucky was one of those states that long ago opted to provide its teachers a pension, but part of that deal was that teachers would not pay into the federal Social Security system. Therefore, retired KY public school teachers — unlike other state employees — do not receive any Social Security benefits upon reaching age 65. This is why messing with their pensions is such an emotional topic.
While I wish Kentucky would change its plan to allow teachers to receive both a pension from the state and also pay into the Social Security system — just like military retirees and other federal government retirees get to do — that is a decision that rests with General Assembly and the governor (yet another reminder as to how important local and state elections are!). As a member of Congress, I would have no ability to alter the state teacher pension system.
But what can I do, if elected?
Well, last week I met a high school English teacher in Robertson County — Kristina Wooldridge. Her husband is a retired Marine who served more than 30 years and they moved around from duty station to duty station, and eventually settled back here in Kentucky after his retirement.
Believe it or not, if Kristina's husband were to pass, she would not — by law — receive any Social Security survivor benefits, even though her husband paid into the system for 30 years. That would not be the case if Kristina had chosen to be a lawyer, or a nurse, or a truck driver, or a stay-at-home mom. But because she is a Kentucky public school teacher, she gets nothing. Zero.
This is wrong, and it's hard to even understand the rationale for it. Not only are the recent actions in Frankfort jeopardizing the retirement nest egg of our teachers, but federal law further prevents teachers from even receiving any spousal survivor benefits. What an outrage!
I pledge to work to close this loophole when I get to Congress.
There has been legislation proposed to do this over the years, but they have been sponsored by Democrats in Congress, and always stalled by the GOP. I'm told Republicans aren't interested in helping a mainly Democratic constituency who are aided by the powerful teachers unions.
When elected, I will do everything I can to educate my colleagues in Congress of the critical importance of this issue for teachers in states like Kentucky, and will help work to make this a more fair system moving forward. I promise to have your back, when I get there.
P.S. My current radio ad speaks to this issue as well. You can listen to it here: