Gov. Jindal hears concerns from retired teachers

Retired Teachers Day

CALCASIEU PARISH, LA (KPLC) - Governor Bobby Jindal declared March 15 as Retired Teachers Day for Louisiana.

Retired teachers from across Calcasieu and Cameron Parish met to celebrate the day and talk about their careers as educators.

But it wasn't just a time to celebrate his or her teaching career, it was also a time to learn and voice their thoughts on Jindal's education reform plans.

"You really need as retired educators to take a look at what's being done to the profession that you were so proud to belong to," Calcasieu Parish Superintendent Wayne Savoy said to the group of retired teachers.

"Now more than any time in the history of public education there's certainly a very vigorous attack on the good things that no one talks about public education," Savoy said.

Jindal's education reform plan isn't the only thing on educators' minds. Jindal proposed a plan to merge the Louisiana Teachers' Retirement System (LTRS) with the Louisiana School Employees' Retirement System. Something retired teachers think is unnecessary.

Louisiana has the number one private pension plan in the nation for teachers. The LTRS contains more than $16-billion in assets, according to Calcasieu Cameron Retired Teachers Assoc. President Edith Keys.

"You can understand why the legislators want their hands on our money," Keys said.

Keys said the LTRS funds will decrease if teachers leave the public schools to go to charter or private schools because money won't be coming in.

"If they can get more money to teach in a private school or charter school, then that's where they're going to go," she said.

Retired Teacher Judy Ellis said she doesn't see how the merging plan will work.

"If you stop putting money into the system, there's not going to be any money for the people who've already retired. It's going to be depleted soon," Ellis said. "It doesn't make sense at all."

Tony and Judy Zaunbrecher each taught in Calcasieu Parish for 33 years. They said the LTRS handled the retirement money well and would "hate to see it disturbed by any mergers."

"We have worked, we have retired and we want to make sure that retirement is secure," Tony Zaunbrecher said.

But the pension merger isn't the only issue the retired teachers are concerned with. Teachers are worried about Jindal's education reform plan.

"He's not consulting the educators. He's got committees, but they don't include educators," Ellis said.

Keys said the proposal feels like it's bombarding the teachers with things that are "half truths."

"We have a lot of really excellent teachers not only in Calcasieu and Cameron Parish, but in the state of Louisiana. And it seems like we're always the scapegoat for whatever comes over," Keys said. "If it's a payroll cut, then it's us that gets the ax."

Tony Zaunbrecher said that's one of the biggest issues with the reform plan, "He really doesn't have an open ear to some of our concerns."

But along with potential future and current teachers, the retired educators are just asking to have a say in the changes in state education and hoping the government will listen.

"The teachers of Louisiana are committed and yes, there's always room for improvement and we're about that, but let us be part of the plan to do it together, as a group in Louisiana. Including the teachers, including the parents and our Governor," Judy Zaunbrecher said.

The next CCRTA meeting will be scheduled for May 10.

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