MOREHEAD - An employee pension should be considered an investment instead of an expense.

That’s what David Bolt, Prichard Committee board member, said regarding one of the hot button issues plaguing public education in Kentucky.

“For far too long, a lot of folks have looked at education in the state budget as an expense. We’ve got to move beyond that,” said Bolt. “We've got to realize that an expenditure for education and good and accountable educational programs is an investment, and it's not just an investment in an individual … it’s an investment in the development of an area, a region, and a state.”

Bolt is one of the committee’s 16 board members, representing the Fifth Congressional district, which includes Rowan County.

Gov. Matt Bevin held a Facebook Live last Wednesday to discuss the future of pensions in Kentucky.

If enacted, the proposal would move new teachers into 401(k) style, defined contribution plans.

The plan also would cap at 27 years and require teachers to pay an additional 3 percent of salary for health insurance.

Local school districts will be required to contribute 2 percent of payroll into the retirement system.

Lawmakers have yet to meet in special session regarding the legislation.

“The pension system is a promise that we made to those individuals who helped us achieve the great success we have achieved, and we need to ensure we keep that promise we have made to them,” said Brigitte Ramsey, executive director of the Prichard Committee.

Ramsey says retirement should not be looked at in isolation since retirement is one part of a total compensation package for educators in Kentucky.

“If adjustments are made, we need to take into account the impact of the total compensation package for teachers and educators and ensure that compensation package in Kentucky is such that it attracts the highest quality workforce and the highest teaching professionals into our schools and districts,” said Ramsey.

The Prichard Committee is a non-profit, non-partisan, citizen-led organization with the goal of increasing the quality of education in Kentucky for all citizens.

The group currently has 110 members statewide and is holding local meetings across the state with board members and emerging leaders to gather input for the Prichard Committee’s three-year strategic plan.

The committee met at Morehead State University earlier this month with emerging leaders in the area.

Following the meeting, Ramsey and Bolt discussed issues currently haunting the education system, such as pensions and charter schools.

Gov. Bevin ceremonially signed House Bill 520 last week.

The bill was enacted during regular session of the 2017 General Assembly, and enables the creation of public charter schools in Kentucky.

“The Prichard Committee did what the Prichard Committee should have done, it did not take a political position for or against charter schools; rather, it took a position that if charter schools are brought to this state they should be held to the same accountability levels as other forms of public education,” said Bolt. “That speaks to the non-partisan approach, but it also speaks to the public need for accountability and what tax dollars are spent on.”

With the passing of charter-enabling legislation, Kentucky became the 44th state with charter schools, which are tuition-free, open enrollment public schools.

“I think oft times we forget that each student is unique, and they have different issues in their lives, different learning processes, and all too often, I think we take too much of a cookie cutter approach on how to educate,” said Bolt.

For more information on the Prichard Committee, visit www.prichardcommittee.org.

Megan Smedley can be reached at msmedley@themoreheadnews.com or by telephone at 784-4116.

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