November 09, 2023

Fredonia education student highlights 'Fix Tier 6' on-campus

Author: Kara Smith
Source:  NYSUT Communications
  Kristen and Kennedy Neckers.
Caption: Livonia Teachers Association member Kristen Neckers (left) and her daughter Kennedy Neckers, an education student at SUNY Fredonia. Photo provided.

It’s never too early to become an advocate.

That’s why one SUNY Fredonia education student contacted NYSUT after learning about its campaign to Fix Tier 6. “As an undergraduate student, I’ve noticed that many of my peers are not educated about the retirement system they’re entering into,” said Kennedy Neckers, a senior early childhood and childhood education major.

Neckers emailed NYSUT about having an on-campus information session about the Fix Tier 6 campaign to bring fiscal parity between Tier 6, which they’ll belong to, and earlier pension tiers. Currently, newer members must work and pay longer into the pension system to earn significantly less in retirement. “I want to show how young people like me who are entering the education profession can make a difference, and impact our future career, by joining this campaign.”

DID YOU KNOW? NYSUT offers student memberships through its Next Generation NYSUT program. Available to full- and part-time college students, membership provides access to certification assistance, discounted or free professional development and a range of other services and programs.

Kennedy credits her mother, Kristen Neckers, a reading specialist at Livonia Elementary School near Rochester, and a summer NYSUT United issue highlighting the Fix Tier 6 campaign, with raising her awareness. Kristen heard about the initiative last year at a pre-retirement seminar. “I’m Tier 4 with 30 years of service and as the presenter talked about the Fix Tier 6 initiative it became clear there’s a huge disparity between what they’ll receive and have to contribute and what I will,” said Kristen, a Livonia Teachers Association member. “I talked to Kennedy about it and said, ‘the good news is that the union is aware this is a problem and is working on your behalf to improve this.’”

Despite the shortfalls of Tier 6, Kennedy is committed to becoming a teacher. After graduation in May she plans to start a master’s degree program with an eye toward becoming an English as a second language teacher with a Spanish focus. Wherever her future career plans take her, Kristen advises that she remain in New York state. “She had an opportunity to do her student teaching in Texas, but I told her to think hard about leaving a state that gives her the rights and protections I’ve been lucky enough to receive,” said Kristin noting that, thanks to NYSUT advocacy, New York state leads in providing rights and benefits for educators.

“My dad was a fireman and a union president … advocating for fairness and due compensation was how I was raised,” she said. “I’m passing that torch on to my children.”