87 Percent of Kentuckians Worried About K-12 Public School Staff Shortages, New National Institute on Retirement Security Survey Finds 

Retirement and Healthcare Benefits Viewed as Key Tools to Attract and Retain Public School Teachers and Staff

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 28, 2022 – A new survey of Kentuckians finds deep public concern about the state’s K-12 public school workforce. Eighty-seven percent of Kentuckians express concern about public school staff shortages, while 86 percent are worried about workforce burnout. Most Kentuckians (89 percent) say K-12 public school staff deserve more respect, and they indicate that better pay (92 percent), healthcare benefits (91 percent) and pensions (87 percent) would help address workforce shortages.

These findings are contained in a new research infographic from the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS), Kentuckians’ Views of K-12 Public School Personnel, Compensation and Salary.

Read the research here.

“The good news is that in recent years, Kentucky lawmakers have been intentional about increasing teacher salary and funding their benefits,” said Dan Doonan, NIRS executive director. But the past two years have been grueling for the K-12 workforce. It will be critically important for state policymakers to make thoughtful decisions about how to keep Kentucky teachers in the classroom and draw more young Kentuckians into the education profession.

“Our research finds that Kentuckians understand that teacher pay and benefits are key levers for addressing the K-12 workforce crisis,” Doonan explained. “Kentuckians overwhelming agree that providing educators with financial and health security in the short and long term can help rebuild the education workforce.”

The report’s key findings are as follows:

  • Kentuckians are deeply concerned about teachers and public school employees. Eighty-seven percent are worried about staff shortages, 86 percent are concerned about staff burnout, and 83 percent are concerned that fewer people are going into education. This concern is high across party lines.
  • Kentuckians value K-12 employees. Nearly all Americans (94 percent) say public school teachers and personnel are important to their community, while 89 percent say they deserve more respect. Eighty-nine percent say their pay should be increased.
  • Kentuckians agree that state lawmakers should properly fund the teacher’s pension plan and retiree health insurance fund. Ninety-two percent say Kentucky lawmakers must continue to make the catch-up contributions to the teacher pension plan, while 91 percent agree state lawmakers must ensure all teachers & school personnel in Kentucky receive the pensions they earned. Ninety-two percent agree the state should be required to make its annual required contributions to the pension fund on time and in full.  Ninety-one agree that Kentucky lawmakers must keep their commitment to fund the healthcare insurance benefits that were promised to teachers.
  • Better pay and benefits, student loan forgiveness, and more school resources would help attract and retain teachers and school personnel. Ninety-two percent of respondents said better pay would help drive more people into the profession. Ninety-one percent pointed to more generous healthcare benefits, while 87 percent said more generous pensions would help. Ninety-one percent responded that more funding and resources for schools would be a key factor, while 91 percent indicated smaller class sizes would help.
  • Healthcare and retirement benefits are viewed as magnets for attracting and retaining K-12 school personnel, and these benefits should be funded and protected. Ninety-seven percent of Americans indicated healthcare benefits are a good tool to attract and retain teachers and school personnel, while 92 percent agree pensions also help.

The survey was conducted by Greenwald Research in December 2021. The sample was selected using Dynata, an online sample provider. This research was made possible thanks to a grant from NRTA: AARP’s Educator Community.

The National Institute on Retirement Security is a non-profit, non-partisan organization established to contribute to informed policymaking by fostering a deep understanding of the value of retirement security to employees, employers, and the economy as a whole. Located in Washington, D.C., NIRS membership includes financial services firms, employee benefit plans, trade associations, and other retirement service providers. More information is available at www.nirsonline.org. Follow NIRS on Twitter @NIRSonline.