Schools in more than 20 Kentucky counties closed on March 30 after teachers walked off the job in angry protest of a pension bill that Republican lawmakers sneaked through the Legislature.
The pension provisions, which take away defined-benefit pensions from new hires, were tucked into a sewer bill. The new 300-page bill sailed through the state Legislature on March 29 in a matter of hours with no notice.
“How are you going to attract and keep good teachers in the state when they don’t have a retirement?” asked Anita Holbrook, a retired teacher from Carter County.
Under the controversial bill, teachers hired after July 1, 2018, will have a hybrid retirement plan with elements of both a traditional pension and a 401(k)-style savings plan. The legislation also caps the effect of sick-leave payments on retirement benefits. Teachers in Kentucky are not eligible for Social Security benefits.
Teachers requesting absences to travel to Frankfort for a rally at the state Capitol forced the closures of at least 39 school districts on April 13. In response, Gov. Matt Bevin said he could “guarantee” that “somewhere in Kentucky today a child was sexually assaulted that was left at home because there was nobody there to watch them.” The remark drew a sharp rebuke from state lawmakers, including several in the governor’s own party.
The teachers responded by organizing “Black Out Bevin” demonstrations, wearing all black to work on April 16.
Louisville Courier Journal, March 29 and April 13
Vox, April 2
WKYT, April 16