I am a teacher in my 29th year of working with teenagers. I have lived and worked in Kentucky for nearly 18 years, having moved here in June of 2000. Murray Independent is the only school system my children have ever attended, and I have been nothing but pleased with their education. Excellent teachers dedicated to their craft have had such positive influences on my three children, each of whom wish to become teachers themselves. Teaching is an art, one that takes work and passion and effort and energy.
I am 52 years old and have been in a public school classroom since I was 22 years old. My husband is an English professor at Murray State University, my father was a high school teacher, coach, administrator, and a college basketball coach, and my mother was a district transportation secretary, so I have literally been in and around the public education system my entire life. I believe education is the single most important resource in any community.
When I got home tonight from a long day at school, I read about your radio interview and saw your post on Facebook concerning the interview. Before reading anything else about it, I wanted to hear the entire thing, as you suggested. I must say, I am distraught by your depiction of educators. I am also appalled by the negative propaganda being used by the Republican party (of which I belong) to intentionally misinform and manipulate the citizens of this state: the robocalls from Freedom Works claiming that Kentucky citizens will pay a $15,000 a year increase in their taxes if SB1 is not passed; the refusal to hear bills written by legislators who voted NO to SB1; the attempt to pit HB 185 against SB1 to gain support from law enforcement. Shameless is the only way to describe such tactics.
Reforming our tax system and finding other sources of revenue must become top priorities. It is clear that teachers alone will be labeled the culprits when any taxes are eventually increased or when new taxes are put in place. You are correct in your assessment of our being highly educated, capable of reading and analyzing, and we see these tactics for what they are – propaganda. We are taxpayers, too, and as voters, we will respond accordingly.
I do appreciate that your administration is attempting to reconcile the problems with the pension system. Teachers have long acknowledged the crisis. In fact, we have been vocal about the issues years before you took office. We let former legislators and governors know of our concerns, as well. We did not create the crisis, nor is it our responsibility to resolve it. However, you have sent teachers various emails inquiring about solutions to our pension crisis. I know that I and several of my colleagues responded to those inquiries with viable solutions. I also know that our local branch of the Kentucky Retired Teachers Association has presented our legislators with solid solutions, as well. Why are none of those solutions being considered or revealed to the public?
After seeking teachers’ ideas, you proceeded to go on Facebook Live and characterize educators in the worst possible light. You focused not on the viable solutions offered by many but chose instead to obsess over one careless person’s frustrated response. You have demonized teachers, making us out to be “selfish,” “short sighted,” “ignorant” sick day hoarders who “want more than our fair share.” Those depictions are simply not true. Not only are they false, but they are also hurtful, manipulative, deceitful, and unbecoming of a Christian and of a governor.
I do not profess to speak for all teachers and state workers – and the pension crisis involves many branches of public servants whom you have elected not to demonize. I can tell you that those who have come together in Calloway County (educators, firemen, policemen, city, and state employees) simply want the pension that we were promised, the money that we have already contributed to our own retirement, and the assurance that our pension will uphold the inviolable contract that we signed when we became public servants.
Teaching is a very rewarding career, one that I have dedicated my life to. I knew at the age of 5 that I would become a teacher and that my riches would be those of the heart and not of the wallet. Teachers are not greedy; if we were, we would not be teachers. It is not uncommon for educators to spend two or three hundred dollars or more of their own money each school year to stock their classrooms with needed supplies. That is not the life I want for my daughters. I am thrilled that they have servant hearts, but it breaks my heart that I cannot in good conscience encourage them to teach in the state of Kentucky.
Our state will lose on multiple levels if the pension system is not resolved in a way that is not punitive to its contributors. Policemen and firemen will seek employment in other sectors or in other states, as will educators. I hope you go back and read the emails sent in response to your requests for solutions. I hope you sit down and speak openly and honestly with teachers, police officers, firemen, and city workers who do their jobs for Kentucky citizens every day. Listen to them. See their hearts. Consider their suggestions. We are tax payers, too. And we vote.