JCPS deals with early teacher retirement as Frankfort debates pe - WDRB 41 Louisville News

JCPS deals with early teacher retirement as Frankfort debates pension reform

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- As students head back to Jefferson County Public Schools after winter break, they may notice some of the most experienced teachers are gone. 

That's because many are opting for retirement rather than risk waiting for pension reform in Frankfort.  

Barbara Hollenbeck taught for nearly 30 years in JCPS classrooms. But she is one of about 70 Kentucky teachers and principals who called it career at the end of the semester.

The fourth grade teacher at Kerrick Elementary retired in December. "All this stuff with education and the pension, and I just thought well I'll just get out while the getting is good," she said. 

The state saw an 80 percent jump in December retirees over last year, and the Jefferson County Teachers' Association president Brent McKim says it's the students that suffer. 

"We are bracing for more but our hope is we can find a common sense solutions that does not promote those kinds of mass retirements cause it's not good for kids," McKim said. 

JCPS listed more than 100 open teaching positions on its website on Tuesday. The biggest concern is losing veteran educators like Hollenbeck, which pulls knowledge out of local schools. 

McKim says even younger teachers are impacted, "They're a wealth of wisdom and they do a lot of coaching and act as mentors for teachers just starting out."

Kentucky is trying to shore up an $80 billion pension deficit.  And lawmakers are considering making teachers work to age 65 rather than 27 years of service for retirement. Another idea is switching newly hired faculty from a pension systems to a 401k style plan. 

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin offered tough talk last August for teachers opting to retire. "We're not going to pass anything to make them wish they'd retire earlier as a result of it (pension reform)., but I will say this, if you happen to be a teacher who would walk out on their classroom in order to serve what's in your personal interest, then you probably should retire." 

But Hollenbeck says she didn't walk out on her kids.  She locked-in what was promised. Now she can focus on the three students who matter most -- her grandkids. 

Anyone qualified and interested in becoming a JCPS teacher can click here for application information. 

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