Calls for moving millions to underfunded teacher’s pension system
Story by Ashley Traylor, Staff writer
Gov. Matt Bevin announced Jan. 26 his proposed budget that gives over $1.1 billion to the state’s pension system, although the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System will still be grossly underfunded by $24.4 billion.
“Our Kentucky Teacher Retirement System is 40 cents per dollar underfunded,” said Clint Combs, Student Government Association president.
Kentucky has the second worst pension system in America, with Illinois being the first. Kentucky only has 44 percent of their pension system funded, according to a report by CNN.
“The changes to the overall educational system in Kentucky has been more than stressful,” said Susan Brunson, teacher in McCracken County. “Our expectations, methods of teaching and now pay are being greatly affected.”
Bevin’s budget gives $130.7 million to the Kentucky Retirement System and $591.5 million to the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System, according to the Lexington Herald Leader.
Bevin rejected borrowing $3.3 billion to restore the Kentucky Retirement System for the short term, according to the Lexington Herald Leader. Bevin said this was borrowing money from our children.
Michael Morgan, associate English professor, said he would rather borrow the money because the interest rates are so low.
“Gov. Beshear actually made that proposal and it had a lot of support of legislators,” Morgan said. “I do not know what they were worried about exactly, but I presume since there was a proposal made by the governor, who I trusted quite a bit. That was his idea and I would go for it. It seemed like a reasonable plan.”
The Kentucky legislature began working on the pension crisis in 2013, when new legislation was passed, although this legislation did not improve the state of the retirement funds.
The reform in 2013 created a new pension plan for anyone hired after Jan. 1, 2014. It included funding a plan to pay the pension debt, limit cost-of-living adjustments and a cash-balance retirement plan, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts.
In 2002, Kentucky Retirement System was 111 percent funded, but a decade later, the funds were disappearing. The state was not contributing money into the pension system or paying benefits. This led to $14 billion in pension debt, according to research by Pew Charitable Trusts.
The 2007 recession only made the pension crisis worse because there was not enough money to add to the retirement systems. Every extra dollar is going to the pension system to compensate for the years of loss.
The Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System needs an extra $1 billion over two years to support retiring teachers and professors, according to the Lexington Herald Leader.
“These are people who are paying into something that when they retire, might not be there,” Combs said.
The teacher’s retirement system sold $750 million in assets and next year, will sell $850 million to keep the program somewhat funded, according to the Lexington Herald Leader.
Part of an educator’s salary goes toward the Kentucky Retirement System, but the amount of educators investing their dollars in the system fell from 76,449 to 72,246, while more teachers are drawing benefits, according to the Lexington Herald Leader.
There are 122,000 teachers with their retirement pay at stake and many more state employees that may not receive retirement. The system can go broke.
“It is really sickening to think that I may end up with less money than expected,” Brunson said. “Or to be at the mercy of what legislators deem appropriate.”
College of Arts and Humanities responds to Bevin’s comments on French literature
Story by Bailey Bohannan, Staff writer
Professors and deans at Murray State are fighting back against a certain statement Bevin made in his State of the Commonwealth speech Jan. 26.
“There will be more incentives to electrical engineers than French literature majors,” Bevin said.
As the hot topic at most colleges, and Murray State professors and deans in the College of Arts and Humanities and the College of Science, Engineering and Technology have something to say about it.
“His claim that taxpayers should not support Kentucky students who wish to study French literature demonstrates a deeply-troubling lack of understanding about the purpose of education in general, and the value of degrees in the humanities to the economic prosperity of the commonwealth,” said Jeff Osborne, associate professor of English.
At the Kentucky Council of Postsecondary Education, President Robert King said he and his team are doing everything they can to try and persuade Bevin and the legislature to work something out with the universities and community colleges to make these next two years not as rough.“I think that through continuing discussion with the governor and legislature, that we will do our best to persuade them that people earning liberal arts degrees are valuable participants in the economy that there are plenty of jobs for people earning those degrees,” King said.
Osborne, and other professors in the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, such as Staci Stone, associate professor of English and the Interim Dean of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, and Reika Ebert, chairwoman from the department of modern languages, said education is about being well-rounded individuals with a wide variety of knowledge, and that is what Murray State is preparing students to be.
“College provides an opportunity for those students to hone their craft and truly enjoy the learning that takes place – content that helps them become lifelong learners,” Stone said.
A prime example of this well-rounded education with a specific engagement into the arts, is Ryan Wynne, graduate from Murray State with a bachelor of science in studio art and design with an emphasis in graphic design.
Wynne graduated in December, and he took right off into the design business. He said after graduating on Dec. 12, he had interviewed for three jobs within a week and was hired by a graphic design firm in Nashville, Tennessee on December 23. After being hired, Wynne moved to Nashville on Jan. 2 and started working on Jan. 4.
“There is a very common stigma that because you are an art major, you will not find a job after graduation, and that majoring in the arts is useless or ‘not a real major,’” he said. “I can very confidently say this is untrue.”
Wynne said he agrees with the professors and deans at Murray State. Steve Cobb, dean and professor at Jesse D. Jones College of Science, Engineering and Technology, said no matter what discipline a student is going into, they need to have their eyes open to the future possibilities with that major.
“Now when a student is deciding on what discipline to major in, I think it is very important that the students go into it with their eyes open and that they understand the economic conditions, the market conditions, the financial realities of the decisions that they make, because there are consequences to the decisions we make and everything is a tradeoff,” Cobb said.
Cobb said although engineers are needed in our country, there is also a great need for the humanities and fine arts disciplines, and Wynne agrees with him alongside other professors.
“Engineering and science is not for everybody and our country does need scientists and engineers, but our county also needs artists and poets and musicians and that brings a richness to society and it brings a fullness to our lives and to our country,” Cobb said.
When it all comes down to it, the decision is the students’, and while they should keep their eyes open as Cobb said, they should also pursue what they love, and any doubts about careers and jobs, Wynne said, depend on passion and hard work.
“Pushing young adults to careers that ‘make sense’ rather than pushing them to work hard at a career they love does not seem like it would help anyone,” Wynne said. “I would much rather have an engineer who wants to be an engineer working for me, than an engineer who really wants to be a historian.”