Education

Commissioner wants teacher attendance records after ‘sickouts’

Angry teachers crowd Capitol Annex over pension board bill

Kentucky teachers returned to Frankfort to protest House Bill 525, a legislative proposal that would change the makeup of the board that oversees the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System.
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Kentucky teachers returned to Frankfort to protest House Bill 525, a legislative proposal that would change the makeup of the board that oversees the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System.

The Kentucky Department of Education on Thursday night requested attendance records of teachers in school districts that have had work stoppages during the General Assembly, including Fayette County.

Attendance records of teachers have been requested by the state “in light of a high number of teacher absences that have caused multiple districts to call off classes since Feb. 28, 2019, when protests regarding education legislation began,” a state education department statement said.

Fayette County Public Schools were only closed due to teacher absences on Feb. 28. Jefferson and some other districts have closed for several additional days. Fayette has been allowing teacher delegations to go to Frankfort.

A review of the records submitted by districts will help Kentucky Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis to determine if state law is being “upheld by districts and their employees,” the statement said.

An email was sent to Fayette and nine other districts Thursday requesting specific information, including:

  • The names of all teachers that called in sick for February 28, March 5-7, and/or March 12-14, 2019 and the days for which each teacher called in sick.
  • All affidavits or certificates of a reputable physician stating that the employee was ill or caring for an ill family member on the days the employee called in sick, as required by state law for granting of any sick leave.
  • Documentation of the district’s policies, procedures, and protocols for collecting sick leave affidavits or certifications and verifying qualification for the granting of sick leave.

The districts include Bath, Boyd, Bullitt, Carter, Fayette, Jefferson, Letcher, Madison, Marion and Oldham. The records are due to the education department by the end of the day on Monday, March 18.

“The Kentucky Department of Education takes the closing of schools very seriously,” said Lewis. “While it is important that administrators, teachers and students make their voices heard about issues related to public education policy, advocacy should under no circumstances be putting a stop to learning for entire communities. Most Kentucky districts have managed to make that avenue available without work stoppages and have continued to serve students.”

According to state law, the commissioner has access to the records of all teachers, or any other public school officials and has the authority to report mismanagement, violation of law, or misconduct to the Kentucky Board of Education, the statement said. The state board can inform the county attorney or the Commonwealth’s attorney in the county or district where the violation occurs.

In response, the Kentucky Education Association released a statement Thursday that said Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin, Lewis and some legislators “are publicly taking educators to task for calling in sick to come to Frankfort to defend public education and their livelihoods. “

“They argue that what educators are doing is inappropriate and illegal, and that they should be disciplined for it,” KEA officials said. “What they fail to recognize is that their educator constituents and their families simply do not trust them. “

“Educators know from experience that the General Assembly bears watching, particularly during the closing days of the session,” KEA officials said.

KEA officials said that superintendents could take disciplinary action against educators who have called in sick to go to Frankfort.

“It is our hope that they won’t,” the KEA statement said. “Making educators — who are all citizens of this Commonwealth — choose between keeping their livelihood and exercising their constitutional rights is despicable.”

Fayette County school officials did not respond to a request for comment.

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