Schools across Kentucky close because teachers are unhappy about modified pension plan

DCNFRob Shimshock, DCNF

Kentucky’s two largest school districts and at least six others closed Friday when employees refused to come to work after the state Congress passed a modified pension plan.

State teachers are angry with a provisions of the law allowing Kentucky to take 15 percent of employee investment gains, as well as make new teachers subject to future benefit modifications, CBS News reported. The bill passed the GOP-dominated House by a 49-46 margin and the Senate by a 22-15 vote.

“A lot of sick days are going to be used today,” Pike County schools preschool director Patricia Lea Collins said.

“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,” Kentucky Republican Gov. Matt Bevin tweeted. “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.”

But teachers crowded the Kentucky Capitol halls and chanted their dissent during the vote.

“I have a 19-year-old granddaughter who wants to become an educator, and I cannot in good faith encourage her to become a teacher now,” retired educator Carlotta Abbot said.

The new law still allocates retired and current teachers 1.5 percent raises in retirement checks and does not require current employees to work longer for full benefits.

“How can you guys shave in the morning without cutting your throat?” Democrat Rep. Tom Burch asked his fellow lawmakers, terming the bill “garbage.” Burch called Republicans “a bunch of cowards” after they declined to legalize casino gambling and marijuana — revenues the representative argued could be used to chip away at the pension debt.

The protest comes during other teacher walk-outs around the country. Oklahoma teachers plan a walk-out Monday after receiving a $6,100 pay raise — an amount which fell short of the $10,000 hike unions requested — according to CNN. Michigan professors are demanding nearly a doubling in their salary, also threatening to walk out in April.

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