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KY Teachers Rally Against Budget Bill Veto

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin is coming under fire for vetoing budget and revenue bills and passing a controversial pension reform bill. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin is coming under fire for vetoing budget and revenue bills and passing a controversial pension reform bill. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
April 13, 2018

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Hundreds of teachers are stepping out of the classroom Friday and heading to Frankfort for the last two days of the legislative session.

Dozens of Kentucky school districts are closed today, so educators can protest budget and tax bills that were vetoed earlier this week by Gov. Matt Bevin. The budget bill (HB 200) increased per-student spending, and tax increases in the revenue bill (HB 366) staved off nearly $490 million in cuts to public education.

Andrew Bailey, treasurer with the Jefferson County Education Association, explains teachers are also deeply troubled by a quickly-passed pension reform law, which he says reduces retirement benefits.

"I think a lot of teachers are just shaking their heads and they don't know what's next for the kids in their classroom and what's next for themselves, too,” says Bailey. “They got into this to change the world and do good for society and in exchange, are taking less pay than what they're worth."

The pension bill moves new hires into a hybrid pension that requires member contributions. Bevin says it will prevent the ailing pension system from getting any worse. And in defending the vetoes, the governor said the revenue projections are questionable, and that the new taxes in the bill would not cover increased education funding.

The State Attorney General filed a lawsuit shortly after the pension bill was signed to block it from going into effect, claiming it violates an "inviolable contract" within state law.

As a teacher, Bailey argues that in the end, it's about the students. He says public schools are underfunded, and children will lose out on services if lawmakers don't override the budget and revenue vetoes.

"We have kids that have trauma every single day that need extra counselors, need mental health. We have kids that go hungry every day, that need Blessings in a Backpack and other services that provide food for kids. We need family resource centers and youth service centers; we need more security in our schools. These are things that we're just not going to be able to afford," says Bailey.

Bevin has accused protesting teachers of being "selfish and willfully ill-informed," and called the leadership of Kentucky Education Association, which is heading up the protests, "absolute frauds." Today's rally comes just over a week after a similar protest brought about 12,000 people to Frankfort.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - KY