At least five Eastern Kentucky school districts will close Wednesday as their teachers rally in Frankfort against proposed pension cuts that have sparked outrage among public employees across the state.
The county school districts in Pike, Lawrence, Martin and Carter counties will be closed Wednesday, along with the Ashland Independent School District in Boyd County.
Between 400 and 500 Pike County public school employees will attend the rally Wednesday, said Patricia Lea Collins, the Head Start and preschool director for Pike County Schools who helped organize the rally.
In Lawrence County, Superintendent Robbie Fletcher posted on Twitter that “this is a day that has been selected for staff members in our region to have a voice in Frankfort on educational issues that we face.”
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Despite rumors of a strike in Pike County, school officials told the Herald-Leader there is no strike planned.
Thousands of teachers have protested in recent weeks against Senate Bill 1, which would end traditional pensions for future teachers and cut cost-of-living allowances for retired teachers, among other things.
Last week, Gov. Matt Bevin drew heavy criticism when he called teachers who oppose SB 1 “ignorant” and “selfish” during a radio interview last week. He also compared teachers who oppose the bill to those who hoarded rationed goods during WWII.
Bevin posted a video Saturday in which he walked back those comments, saying he has “tremendous respect for those of you who are teaching.”
All of the Eastern Kentucky school districts closed Wednesday are scheduled to be open the rest of the week.
Collins said parents have been supportive, despite the inconvenience of closing school.
“Our people here in Pike County have been chomping at the bit to get down there and voice our displeasure,” Collins said. “The support we have from our community is unreal, and they agree with us that we need to take a stand.”
The group is paying to use five school buses to transport the hundreds of employees to Frankfort, and many more will arrive in their own vehicles, Collins said.
“He’s underestimated Eastern Kentucky,” Collins said of Bevin. “He doesn’t value education for all children.”