BuzzFeed News

Reporting To You

Kentucky Teachers Are On Strike Today And Thousands Of Students Have The Day Off

Public school teachers staged a one-day "sick-out" to protest cuts to their pensions, closing school districts across the state.

Last updated on March 30, 2018, at 4:26 p.m. ET

Posted on March 30, 2018, at 1:36 p.m. ET

Teachers across Kentucky called out sick Friday to protest cuts to their pensions — meaning at least 22 school districts were closed for the day.

Mandy McLaren

Stephanie Winkler, president of the Kentucky teachers union, said the way in which the bill was proposed and passed "showed blatant disrespect for the law and for democracy."

"What has occurred over the last 24 hours is nothing short of a bomb that has exploded on public service," Winkler told reporters Friday at the Kentucky Education Association headquarters in Frankfort. "These political shenanigans are unacceptable."

Teachers first flooded the rotunda of the state capitol in Frankfort late Thursday night to protest the pension reform measure — which was attached at the last minute to a sewage bill. The bill cleared the House in a 49–46 vote and the Senate by a 22–15 vote.

Here’s how Kentucky’s senators voted on the surprise sewage-turned-pension bill tonight after much debate. Now it’s on its way to Gov. Matt Bevin, who has made pension reform one of his signature issues. Teachers outside chant: “Shame on you!” #kyga18 #kypolitics https://t.co/eGgc8VFgH5

Teachers said the bill does not change annual cost of living adjustments for their pensions, that it places new financial requirements on new hires, and that it limits the number of sick days teachers can put toward their retirement.

The bill: -Caps sick leave for retirement calculation that we’ve rightfully earned -Moves new Ts to a hybrid cash balance plan -Includes a 2% pension contribution from school districts for new hires reducing $ for Ss. Teachers expect their promises to be kept @mikewilson2018 https://t.co/v6DSVxHnG9

The state's attorney general said the bill was voted on without time for public comment and without actuarial analysis.

Moments ago, Republican leadership amended a sewage bill to include “pension reform.” They are now forcing lawmakers to vote on the bill without time to read its 291 pages, with no testimony from the public and without any actuarial analysis. This is government at its worst. ^AB

Lawmakers said the bill would put Kentucky’s pension “on a path to being fully funded," and Gov. Matt Bevin said it would stop the state from "kicking the pension problem down the road."

Tonight 49 members of the Kentucky House and 22 members of the Kentucky Senate voted not to keep kicking the pension problem down the road Anyone who will receive a retirement check in the years ahead owes a deep debt of gratitude to these 71 men & women who did the right thing

Bevin has yet to sign the bill. The attorney general said he'll sue if he does.

Bill Pugliano / Getty Images

So teachers took to the state capitol Thursday night to protest.

As Senate Democrats take turns ripping into the GOP’s surprise pension reform bill, teachers continue to chant beyond the chamber doors (and break out into cheers for Democrat Sen. Morgan McGarvey - who opposes the proposal -when he steps outside). #kyga18 #KyPolitics https://t.co/1XghHenzwz

Then teachers started calling out en masse Friday morning.

All Fayette County Public Schools will be closed on Friday, March 30, 2018 due to having more than a third of our school employees out.

Some districts sent tweets before 6 a.m. to cancel school.

ALERT: Due to significant teacher absences and the inability to safely cover a large number of classes with substitute teachers in many of our schools, all @JCPSKY schools will be closed today, March 30, 2018.

Due to significant teacher absences, Oldham County Schools will be CLOSED TODAY, Friday, March 30. School enrichment centers are also closed.

Students reacted...as expected.

@JCPSKY BROO I STAYED UP ALL NIGHT DOING MY RESEARCH PAPER AND I JUST GOT DONE FML

They saw government in action. Sort of.

No school today because my state government passed a bill regarding pension and teach retirement last night and all the teachers are on strike and called in🤣🤣

Students also attended the protests, which began again Friday morning, in solidarity with their teachers.

@KYYMCA when Y kids show up to support their teachers at the Capitol... I love what we’re teaching these kids 😍 #120strong #APensionIsAPromise #StayWoke https://t.co/P4o8GbZq8p

"Our government is sick."

These teens from Jessamine and Fayette counties say the pension bill affects them just as much as their teachers. They say their teachers called out sick “because our government is sick.” #kyga18 https://t.co/O63AHYCUg4

Local businesses also showed their support.

Free lunch for Fayette County Public School teachers today. Please bring your ID.

At the capitol, teachers chanted "Vote them out" and "We deserve better."

“Vote them out!” #kyteachers #120Strong #120united #KYWildcatSickout

And teachers spent the morning packing lunches for students who relied on meals supplied at school.

Teachers at Garden Springs Elementary packing lunches for students who may not get a meal today.

The strike is technically a "wildcat" action, which means it was not organized or sanctioned by union leadership.

Wildcat Sick out. Please support Kentucky teachers. The new pension law was his in a 291 page Sewage Waste Water bill that no one read. @maddow @Lawrence @amjoyshow https://t.co/2ywHPE23fi

Teachers used their sick days to call out of work and protest — sometimes called a "sick-out" — since strikes are technically illegal under Kentucky law.

Seeing all these Kentucky teachers call in sick to the point where school had to be closed, I can only come up with one diagnosis for such behavior. https://t.co/cFMHd6ivsU

Winkler wouldn't say if she supported the "sick-out" Friday, but she said the union supports teachers taking time off when they are ill, which, she argued, they are.

"They are sick to death," Winkler said.

On Monday, the teachers union will hold a rally on the steps of the state capitol, Winkler said.

"We will be hear watching every single move legislators make," she said.

The strike follows a similar 9-day wildcat action in West Virginia, and comes as teachers are threatening strikes in Oklahoma and Arizona.

What's happened in just the last month with teacher uprisings... WEST VIRGINIA: 9-day strike for a 5 percent raise KENTUCKY: Teachers strike, forcing many schools to close OKLAHOMA: Strike threat leads to $6k raise after decade-long freeze ARIZONA: Teachers threatening strike https://t.co/TTSeaWgNEs

Public school teachers have been supporting one another across state lines.

From a West Virginia teacher, good luck Kentucky teachers in your fight! Stand strong and you will prevail!#APensionIsAPromise #kentuckyteachers #55United

The next statewide strike is slated for Monday, April 2, in Oklahoma, where tens of thousands of teachers are expected to walk off work to protest low pay and poor working conditions.

OKC schools confirms it will close Monday #oklaed

Labor professors and others say it could be the beginning of a "labor wildfire."

Angry, militant US workers are like dry tinder. First West Virginia public school teachers struck and won. Now teachers in Oklahoma, Arizona, and Kentucky are gearing up. We may be witnessing the beginnings of a labor wildfire. https://t.co/7orb2rte6N

Stephanie K. Baer contributed additional reporting to this story.

The West Virginia Teachers Strike Is Shaping Up To Be A New Model For The Left

ADVERTISEMENT