STATEMENT BY BRIGITTE BLOM RAMSEY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PRICHARD COMMITTEE ON KENTUCKY PENSION REFORM
A decade ago, Dr. Robert Sexton, founding executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, raised an alarm about Kentucky’s beleaguered pension system. He knew if something didn’t change, the state’s burgeoning pension liabilities would crowd-out funding for education. At that time, the state was nearly two decades into successful education reform measures and he knew we needed to continue to target investment in teaching and learning for the Commonwealth to continue its progress.
Today, the pension systems are in much worse shape; delaying action for any stretch of time is not an option. Reforming the pension systems must be acted upon in ways that account for promises made to the teachers who led Kentucky’s climb from the bottom of national rankings in education. Pension changes must also reflect foresight and commitment to total teacher compensation packages that attract and sustain a high-quality teaching workforce necessary to support Kentucky’s continued climb from the middle to the top tier of all states. Teachers do the core work that equips Kentucky’s students with the knowledge and skills needed for our state’s economic progress and increased quality of life.
Any reduction in Kentucky’s investment in our schools and classrooms to fix the pension issue is unacceptable. In fact, deeper investment in education is essential. In light of approval of a new education accountability model last week, the General Assembly’s passage of performance-based funding for postsecondary education this year, and Kentucky’s steadfast desire to invest in the proven benefits of early childhood education, the Governor and the General Assembly must identify a clear path to reinvest in Kentucky’s most valuable resource – our human capital. This will require innovations that lead to efficiencies and increased investments. Nothing less is acceptable if we are to meet the ambitious goals that Kentucky has set to prepare our students to compete in the knowledge and entrepreneur-based economy of the future.