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As JCPS Closes For A Fourth 'Sickout' Tuesday, Bevin Criticizes Teacher Action

Educators fill the floor of the Capitol rotunda in Frankfort to protest multiple education bills.
Educators fill the floor of the Capitol rotunda in Frankfort to protest multiple education bills.

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin is condemning a continued teacher sickout, which has closed schools in some counties across the state as educators protest legislation at the Capitol. Jefferson County Public Schools will be closed again Tuesday — the fourth time in about two weeks — as teachers protest several education-related bills in Frankfort.

Bevin broadcast a video message Monday night on social media.

In the message, Bevin said he’s growing weary of teachers pretending to be sick and using the days to protest in Frankfort.

"There’s no reason to be walking out on students, leaving students in the lurch, hurting them and their parents and the many businesses in Kentucky that are affected by this," Bevin said.

Bevin also questioned teachers' motivations for calling in sick, saying they are acting out of "personal interest" when they have a responsibility to take care of young people.

"It’s as simple as that, this isn’t that controversial -- it shouldn’t be," Bevin said. "There’s no proposals at all — other than to take care of the obligations we have to our pension among other things — that anybody should be concerned about."

Teachers have expressed concerns about several pieces of legislation moving through the General Assembly, including controversial measures to:

  • create a scholarship tax credit to support nonprofits that help send eligible students to private schools;
  • reorganize the makeup of the board of trustees that manages teacher pensions;
  • expand the powers of the JCPS Superintendent to have the final say in choosing principals for schools.

In the video message, Bevin went on to accuse the Jefferson County Teachers Association of enabling teachers to call in absent by reloading their available sick days. JCTA President Brent McKim responded to the claim in a Facebook live video message.

"To say it’s a false assertion, would be an understatement," McKim said. "We have no mechanism whatsoever for being able to reload teachers sick days."

The sickout has continued despite efforts by JCPS administrators and the Jefferson County Teachers Association, the local teachers’ union, to stop on-going school closings. The school district and the union developed a plan to allow up to three teachers per school to take sanctioned absences to be at the statehouse during the final days lawmakers are in session.

However, JCTA did not call for any of the past sickouts; nor did the larger statewide teacher lobby the Kentucky Education Association, of which JCTA is an affiliate. The first single-day sickout was called by KY120 United, a grassroots teachers organization based primarily in Fayette County. A faction of teachers from Jefferson County has initiated the following days of missed classes, spreading their message on social media.

Liz Schlemmer is WFPL's Education and Learning Reporter.

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