Five demands in defense of KY public education
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We are experiencing a historic moment of positive change driven by educators in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, and elsewhere. Rather than waste this moment by merely standing guard over the status quo or reacting to incessant depredations, we want to move Kentucky education forward in ways that will benefit all stakeholders. We can no longer allow the Koch brothers, the American Legislative Exchange Council, and their lapdogs in Frankfort (who don’t even bother to read the legislation written on their behalf!) to dictate the agenda for our commonwealth. Therefore, we present this list of demands in support of Kentucky education.
1. We demand that our pension and retirement plans be improved, not dismantled.
1a. We want the inviolable contract for past, current, and future teachers to be honored in order to make teaching in Kentucky an attractive option for talented potential teachers inside and outside of the Commonwealth.
1b. Pension and retirement plans should be fully funded for current, retired, and future teachers. This fund should be legally off-limits for raiding to address revenue shortfalls.
1c. Teachers should be able to retire after 25 years of service, regardless of teacher age, or five years of service at age 65. No “Rule of 87.” Older teachers should be incentivized, not penalized, for working past 25 years.
2. We demand that public funds only be spent on public schools.
Research shows that overall, charter schools do not improve educational outcomes for students. Too many charter school operators have taken public tax money for profit and left their students struggling. Public funds should go to public schools.
2a. No public education funds should be diverted to for-profit or non-profit charter schools or for vouchers to attend private schools.
2b. No tax credits should be granted for donations or tuition payments to private schools.
3. We demand that legislators prioritize new funding sources over cuts to existing programs.
Finding funding for pensions/benefits in our inviolable contract is not the job of teachers. It is the job of legislators. But part of the reason we’re at this historical juncture is that both political parties have raided teachers’ retirement funds to cover state expenses because they were afraid to raise corporate and income taxes. The governor and his allies argue that low taxes will attract new businesses; we argue that those same businesses expect well-educated employees for that reason ought to be willing to finance public education through taxation. The success of Kentucky’s students depends on the state’s ability to hold up its financial commitments to the education system. To that end we demand:
3a. No imposition of new sales taxes. Sales taxes are regressive taxation that disproportionately hurt small businesses, the poor, and the middle class, and should not be raised on non-luxury goods or services. The state should seek out new forms of revenue that don’t come at the expense of the poor and middle class while cutting taxes for the wealthy and corporations.
3b. No imposition of regressive flat taxes. The tax rate should remain 5.8% of federal Adjusted Gross Income for those earning between $8000 and $75000. In addition, rates should increase for the those earning above $75000 with the creation of at least two new tax brackets for the super-wealthy. For example, 6.5% for those earning above $150000, 7% for those whose federal AGI is between $250,000 and $999,999, 8% for those whose federal AGI is above a million dollars. Corporations based in Kentucky should pay taxes to Kentucky based on their earnings, not merely based on their in-state revenue and the rate should be progressive, and not flat, so as not to disproportionately burden small businesses.
3c. Pensions should remain tax-free up to $50,000. This tax exclusion should not be lowered by one cent (much less by $10,000 as the current tax bill proposes).
3d. Find new funding sources by raising taxes, closing tax loopholes, and/or legalizing and taxing the same revenue sources that are already legal in other states (for example, recreational cannabis or casino gambling).
4. We demand that our students’ safety, health, and educational needs be prioritized.
We demand that our students be provided a safe and welcoming educational environment. We understand that for some of our students, our schools are the only place they can count on for support, nourishing meals, counseling, and safety. We demand an end to the school-to-prison pipeline. In addition, we demand:
4a. No more state funds devoted to building new juvenile detention centers, public or private.
4b. An end to zero-tolerance policies that disproportionately target underprivileged youth, LGBTQ youth, and youth of color. Eliminate HB 169.
4c. Increased funding for Family Resource and Youth Service Centers and funding for full-time trained therapists, youth service workers, effective restorative justice discipline programs, and crisis intervention specialists instead of armed school resource officers, regardless of Title I status. If we must have armed school resource officers, we want them to receive ongoing nonviolent conflict resolution training.
4d. Increased funding for all school breakfast and lunch programs.
4e. Increased funding for textbooks, classroom supplies, and technology.
4f. Increased funding for teachers’ professional development including maintaining funding for KTIP and increased funding for subsidization of teachers’ continuing education, National Board Certification and tuition reimbursement.
4g. Provide state-funded preschool for all three and four year-old children.
5. We demand an end to the Windfall Elimination Provision and the Government Pension Offset.
These laws, which both took effect in 1983, basically eliminate Social Security benefits for Kentucky pension recipients and their spouses. Eliminating the WEP and GPO have to be a priority for Kentucky’s senators and representatives in Washington DC. If our legislators stab us in the back again, we want to be able to count on the same Social Security that everyone else in the nation has.
5a. Teachers who have already paid into Social Security in their early careers should be allowed to collect their benefits upon retirement.
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