Standing up: The Teacher Pension Crisis


Taken by Olivia Waletzke

Enthusiastic Educator. Mrs. Parrella, known by her students as Señora Parrella, has been working at South for seven years, two years with Special Needs and in the media center. Unforeseen by SFHS, Sra. Parrella obtained a degree specializing in working with students with disabilities.”To me, it’s very upsetting because it’s easy for people for to say that we’re going to do this or do that, but how would he [Matt Bevin, Kentucky governor] feel if his child was thrown in a room without a proper teacher to student ratio.”

Minakshi Shivananda, Staff Writer

Imagine for a moment that you’re a teacher; a teacher that always puts in their best efforts to help their students succeed. Working late hours, grading never-ending papers, meeting with students; you feel that you’re doing your job right. After a long, but triumphant month, you go to receive your well-deserved paycheck. This paycheck is your lifeline: the way you feed your family, buy supplies for home and treating yourself. You know that all of the hard work eventually pays off and that your retirement money is secure for when your future. Now, see yourself in a situation where you’re being stripped of the money that you have been working towards nearly your entire career: your pension, and it was all because of your legislators.

The teacher pension crisis in America is becoming unacceptable day-by-day. Kentucky, being the most publicized about the issue, has a bigger problem in their hands. Governor Matt Bevin, a Republican, recently passed a bill in March 2018 that essentially stripped teachers of their retirement funds. In response, nearly hundreds of thousands of teachers marched in protest to the bill. Additionally, nearly 20 schools closed in retaliation to the controversial bill. At South Forsyth High School, two hard-working and experienced teachers told us their response to the pension reform. Mrs. Parrella and Mrs. Naffky are both 9th grade teachers, Mrs. Parrella teaches Spanish 2 and Mrs. Naffky teaches Algebra 1. Here’s what they had to say about the teacher pension crisis in the US.

Q: Last March in Kentucky, a rally of teachers protested against a pension bill that was passed. The pension bill stated that future teachers will have to work longer to receive retirement benefits (so they won’t have any retirement benefits when they start working), no cuts to annual cost of living increases for current teachers, and lawmakers can adjust the benefits provided by their retirement plan at any point in the future. Do you believe that the bill that was passed was right?

Mrs. Naffky: “No, just because you start your profession with a goal in mind, you shouldn’t have to change that throughout. I knew from the start what I was getting [money] and the projection. So to stop that, people start at year one to plan out 30 years and any disruption in that affects the family and affects the person.”

Mrs. Parella: “No, I’ve worked in the business world and teachers work very hard because I know more than one side of it. I’ve been in business, I’ve been in other positions and I think that an average business person does not realize how hard a good teacher works. It’s just like any other profession, there’s good and bad. That’s life; any nationality, religion, so a good teacher, in my opinion, works very hard to make her kids succeed. And why is it that they’re taking away essential things that they need? They need benefits just like everyone else. I don’t agree with why they’re taking it away from them.”

Q: Many teachers blame Matt Bevin, the current Kentucky governor, for passing the bill. He stated that it is “a very big deal” and that the KEA (Kentucky Education Association) is an absolute fraud for not looking out for the best interests of themselves. But the bill basically strips teachers and future teachers of their retirement benefits. What do you have to say about this?

Mrs. Naffky: “I don’t know necessarily if he individually is the one to blame, but I think that the organization should’ve looked out for other candidates. I don’t know what message was given out to the people. I don’t know if it could solely be one person. In my opinion, voters have to have the research.”

Mrs. Parella: “I think that the teachers in the KEA should’ve been involved in what was going on. They need to be involved in their community, they can’t just wait for someone to look out for them. I promote self-advocacy, I say that you all need to do it yourselves. Any teacher needs to make sure to vote, if they don’t vote, don’t complain, find out what’s going on in the world, and especially if it’s going to affect your job. I think that guy [Matt Bevin] is a bad politician because he’s supposed to be looking out for the best of everybody. If he’s mistreating the teachers, what does that reflect on the students? He doesn’t really care about the future generation and how they’re going to be educated. I think that’s really bad.”

Q: How do you believe this could affect the upcoming midterm elections and our candidates, based on what you know about their educational plan?

Mrs Naffky: “Obviously, I’m not voting for anybody that would endorse him [Matt Bevin] and I know where I stand. I have 9 more years and I don’t want that to change. If I was hearing anybody supporting that law and bringing it here, I would not stand by it, but I wouldn’t mind if it was promoted elsewhere. It definitely affects my opinion on voting on that person [candidate who supports the law].”

Mrs. Parella: “I think it will definitely influence the election if parents and teachers are educated. If they know this law, they should make the right decision to not vote again for a man like that [Matt Bevin]. He doesn’t care about education and he doesn’t care about the students.”

Teachers have stood up for their rights throughout history. Today, teachers across America are continuing to protest and speak their truth. Remember, teachers are individuals too, so be sure to get to know the person you see nearly every day.