Fayette County educators on Thursday held a second round of walk-in protests at schools to put pressure on lawmakers to override Gov. Matt Bevin’s vetoes of budget and tax bills that included extra money for education.
Fayette County Education Association President Jessica Hiler said she called for the effort to try to influence lawmakers.
Several educators from Frederick Douglass High School and Carter G. Woodson Academy held up signs on Winchester Road as some passing motorists beeped their horns in support Thursday. Other similar protests at various schools were planned for Thursday afternoon.
“This fundamental struggle, it’s not about pensions, it’s not about the next two years’ budget,” said Zack Hardin, a teacher at Woodson. “It is the fundamental question of whether or not our government believes that strong well-funded public institutions can help create the more equitable and better world for our citizens.”
Hardin said he was going to Frankfort Friday, given that Superintendent Manny Caulk had joined several other Kentucky school district officials in canceling classes so teachers can gather in Frankfort where the General Assembly is expected to address Bevin’s vetoes. Advocates are not using the term rally for the gathering Friday. As of 2:30 p.m., the Herald-Leader’s reporting partner WKYT-TV said the following school districts in addition to Fayette had canceled classes Friday: Bath, Bell., Bourbon, Burgin Independent, Clark, Corbin Independent, Floyd, Franklin, Garrard, Grant, Jessamine, Knox, Letcher, Lincoln, Martin, Mercer, Middlesboro Independent, Owen, Paris Independent, Pike, Pineville Independent, Scott, Washington, Wolfe and Woodford. Bullitt, Trimble and Christian county districts announced cancellations Wednesday.
Hardin said if he talked to lawmakers who supported Bevin’s veto of the budget bill, he would say, “You gave $13 billion of tax incentives last year to corporations. You gave $10 1/2 million the year before that. Do not tell me the money isn’t there and it’s our job to pay for corporate subsidies.”
One of Hardin’s colleagues at Woodson, Melanie Trowel, said the main reason she is going to Frankfort is that when public schools have budget cuts, it hurts students, including those affected by the achievement gap between minority, at-risk, low-income, disabled students and other children.
"We're going to keep making that gap further and further apart if we don’t fund our schools," Trowel said.
Fayette County teachers also held the walk-ins before and after school on a Thursday in March.
“I feel like teachers have given everything that we can and we are counting on the legislators to balance the budget and be able to bring enough revenue to be able to cover the pension that was promised to us when we signed our contracts. The government was supposed to provide the other portions of our pension and they have not been putting money into it, into our pension in past years,” said Trowel.
Kelli Reno, a librarian at Frederick Douglass High School, said, “I think it’s time for our profession to be truly respected and appreciated by those who are in power .We have wonderful support from our parents, we have wonderful support from our administration, from other teachers, from our community as a whole. What we don’t feel is that support from our Governor and from legislators."
Reno said she was going to Frankfort Friday “for my students.”
“Whether or nor we can affect legislative change at this point, for me that’s not the end goal. The end goal is to let them know that as a teacher, as a librarian, as a leader in my school and my community, I will always do whatever is best for my students,” said Reno. “ Absolutely what is best for the students of Kentucky is to have adequate and sufficient funding for their education and the way we're going that is not what is happening. We are moving backwards and our kids deserve more.”