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Teachers Say Distrust Of Lawmakers Is Behind Continued ‘Sickouts’

sickout trust issues
JCPS teacher Allison French, her son Parker French and JCPS teacher Kelley Radke hold signs expressing their distrust of lawmakers.

Jefferson County Public Schools closed for a sixth time Thursday due to teacher absences, as a sickout continued despite assurances from lawmakers that the major education bills educators oppose are dead.

In an apparent effort to convince teachers to return to school Thursday, a bipartisan coalition of Jefferson County lawmakers put out a statement Wednesday night to send a clear message to teachers that the education-related bills they were protesting had no chance of passage:

When asked about that memo Thursday, Democratic State Senator Morgan McGarvey doubled down on his assertion that the contents of House Bill 205 and House Bill 525 would not resurface during the final two working days of the legislative session.

"I believe with every fiber of my being that the tax scholarship credit bill and the bill dealing with the teachers retirement systems are dead -- in every way, shape or form -- and will not be brought up in the 2019 regular session."

McGarvey said it is clear from public statements made by House and Senate leaders that those measures do not have the votes to pass this year; though the issues could return in the next session, when budget-related bills will need a simple majority to pass.

Republican Representative Jason Nemes also signed the memo, and says he wishes it would have worked.

“It’s way past time to get back to school, and the fact that we’ve called school off today for absolutely nothing -- you know I’ll let other people determine their motivations -- but it’s extremely dismaying,” Nemes said.

Nemes added that he has received many emails from teachers in the past month, but that in the past few days he’s been hearing more and more from parents who are weary of the sickout.

Nemes escalated his rhetoric throughout the day, calling on Jefferson County Public School administrators to respond to teachers’ “illegal” work stoppage. Nemes also emphasized that most JCPS teachers did not call in sick, and called the closings “undemocratic.”

"I just think it would be good for people who are paid to do a job to do the job," Governor Matt Bevin said in a press conference, when asked to weigh in about disciplinary action for teachers.

Bullitt County Public Schools were closed on Thursday, too, and teachers protesting on the floor of the Capitol rotunda defended their motivations. Educators say they wanted to keep watch after last year, when the General Assembly passed a last-minute measure affecting teachers’ pensions by putting it in a bill related to sewage.

“For a vast majority of teachers here, trust is an issue,” said Bullitt County bus driver Kevin Thornton.

That theme was reflected on the signs held by one JCPS teacher and student, which read “Trust is earned,” and “Our behavior is a direct result of your behavior last session.”

Liz Schlemmer is WFPL's Education and Learning Reporter.