By Jacqueline Pitts, The Bottom Line
FRANKFORT, Ky. — Amid teacher protests, a bill to change the structure of the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System (KTRS) Board — to have members appointed by multiple education groups — passed through the House State Government Committee on Thursday.
Rep. Ken Upchurch, R-Monticello, sponsor of House Bill 525, started by apologizing to parents and students across the state where teachers have staged a “sick out” to protest this bill because of misinformation about the bill coming from the teachers’ union, who he said wants to defend their control over the process.
The KTRS board is currently made up of the chief state school officer, state treasurer, two trustees appointed by the governor and seven elected by KTRS members.
Upchurch stated the flaw in the current makeup of the KTRS board is that the seven elected positions are oftentimes controlled by the state teachers’ union, Kentucky Education Association (KEA). He stated his bill would expand selection of those seven to other education groups.
The legislation would allow for an individual submitted by each of the following organizations: the Kentucky Education Association, the Kentucky Retired Teachers Association, the Kentucky School Boards Association, the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents, the Kentucky Association of Professional Educators, Jefferson County Teachers Association, and Kentucky Association of School Administrators.
Additionally, House Bill 525 would expand the board from 11 members to 13 members. The two new members would be a retired teacher and a member appointed by the governor that will be chosen from a list of suggestions from the Kentucky Society of Certified Public Accountants to ensure there is investment knowledge on the board.
Upchurch said he has heard from educators across the state they want more authority and oversight over their own retirement, which he feels this bill will do, as it gives a voice to more education groups than just one teachers’ union.
KEA President Stephanie Winkler, who also serves as the chair of the KTRS board nominating committee for those seven positions, testified on the bill stating the board has existed for more than 75 years and has worked well and added the members of her organization trust the current makeup of the board.
It was noted that KEA represents 43,000 individuals, some of which are not in the teachers’ pension plan, whereas KTRS covers more than 120,000 current and retired teachers.
Some legislators on the committee expressed concern with those numbers, stating KEA represents less than one in four individuals in the pension plan but yet controls seven of the positions on the board.
Winkler stated she receives nominations of all educators in the state, some of which are not KEA members. But when asked how many of the entire 11-member KTRS board (including state officials and other appointees) are not members of the KEA, she stated five board members are not a part of the teachers’ union.
House Bill 525 passed through the committee with 12 members voting yes, five voting no, and one member passing. The legislation now moves to the full House for a vote on the floor.