FRANKFORT, Ky. (CN) - A class of current and retired teachers claims Kentucky's retirement fund for educators is short nearly $25 billion because the state refuses to fund it.
The lawsuit, filed Nov. 29 in Franklin County Circuit Court, estimates the class at 146,000 members, and says "prior governors and the general assembly have consistently failed to adequately fund the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System,” also called KTRS.
Gov. Matt Bevin is named as a defendant, along with Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers and Greg Stumbo, speaker for the Kentucky House of Representatives.
In a phone interview with Courthouse News, Ted Lavit, attorney for the teachers, said he believes KRTS has "been underfunded for close to two decades" and that new financial information released by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board puts the funding ratio "at below 35.22 percent."
Lavit said the fund will be insolvent within five to seven years.
"I don't know of a state in America - and we are monitoring all of them - that has a lower ratio," the Lebanon, Ky.-based attorney said.
The teachers, who contribute over 12 percent of each paycheck to the fund, say the state's conduct violates both the U.S. and Kentucky Constitutions.
They seek a judgment declaring the state has violated their due process rights, as well as a writ of mandamus requiring it to "cure the financial deficiency of KTRS."
Lavit called Bevin's actions related to the pension fund "insufficient," and said "we have to do something imaginative, forward-thinking, and creative."
"I'm hoping [the defendants] stop playing political football with this issue," he said.
The governor’s office did not immediately respond Friday to a request for comment.