Kentucky teacher protest is about more than just pensions, supporters say

Posted at 7:19 PM, Apr 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-03 19:18:58-04

BOONE COUNTY, Ky. -- School superintendent Randy Poe breathed a sigh of relief Monday evening, after state lawmakers approved a public education spending bill that restored some of the services threatened by an earlier proposal.

Before Monday's vote in Frankfort, Poe was facing the foreboding task of laying off up to 110 teachers throughout his district, among other budget cuts.

"Every one of those — their life was affected — not only theirs, but their family, their children and the community," he told WCPO Tuesday.

The new bill -- passed at the 11th hour after days of protests in the Capitol from teachers, students, parents and other supporters -- gave Poe and his peers across Northern Kentucky some breathing room, even though they also say they still need more resources.

The spark that ignited the political fire here was that the original proposal -- supported by the governor -- drained some teachers' pension plans.

Republican lawmakers passed a pension overhaul last week that cut benefits for new teachers. Opponents feared how the cuts would dissuade young people from choosing education as a profession.

Under the original measure, Northern Kentucky schools combined stood to lose roughly $30 million across the region. Boone County would have lost about 20 percent of that, and not just in teachers.

"Seventy-five percent of our transportation budget could have possibly been cut," Poe said. "So, that would have been about 45 (school bus) routes that we would have had to eliminate in order to make up for that."

Bevin's original plan called for local districts to fund completely their school bus fleets.

Professional development for the teachers that survived proposed cuts in faculty would have gone by the wayside -- that is, the little there is available right now, said Mary Wilson.

Wilson heads up the Boone County Education Association. She compared a lack of career development resources to an auto mechanic not learning new ways engines are designed and built.

"It would be equivalent saying to an auto mechanic that you cannot learn any further about your job," she said. "You just have to go with the status quo despite the fact that cars are changing."

Full-day preschool is one resource Kenton County Schools said the bill wouldn't necessarily support, but it would be a step back in the right direction, according to superintendent Henry Webb. The district hasn't been able to support full-day preschool for a decade.

"Full-day kindergarten is extremely important and currently we don’t have all day kindergarten," he said. "But we are looking at ways right now we can revive full-day kindergarten and we’re hopeful to ge able to do that."