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April 2, 2018

The Latest: Kentucky teachers fill streets for massive rally, traffic slowed to a crawl

The Associated Press

Updated 26 minutes ago (11:30 am)

Teachers and state employees have jammed Frankfort roadways this morning (April 2, 2018) and there is a two hour wait to get to capitol.Teachers and state employees have jammed Frankfort roadways this morning (April 2, 2018) and there is a two hour wait to get to capitol.


FRANKFORT, KY. -- The Latest on a rally by Kentucky teachers at the state Capitol (all times local):

 

10:40 a.m.

Thousands of Kentucky teachers are marching from the Kentucky Education Association office to the steps of the state Capitol to protest last-minute changes to their pension system as lawmakers meet to consider a new state budget.

Chanting "enough is enough" and "we'll remember in November," the line of teachers and school employees stretched for blocks as they traveled toward the Capitol building holding signs.


Teachers have rallied several times during this year's legislative session to protest the pension bill, but Monday's event is shaping up as their biggest.

Many Kentucky school districts are on spring break this week. But some districts not on break had to cancel classes because of teacher absences.

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9 a.m.

Thousands of teachers have gathered in Frankfort to put the political heat on Kentucky lawmakers.

Teachers and other school employees filled the streets outside the Kentucky Education Association office Monday. They held signs and prepared to raise their voices as lawmakers returned to the Capitol to possibly vote on new two-year state budget.

The school employees plan to march to the Capitol, a couple of blocks away, on a cold, overcast day.

Teachers have rallied several times during this year's legislative session to protest a pension bill. But Monday's event is shaping up as their biggest event as lawmakers try to reach agreement on a new budget.

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8:30 a.m.

Kentucky teachers are gathering for a massive rally in hopes of putting political heat on state lawmakers who are returning to the Capitol to possibly consider a new two-year operating budget.

The Kentucky Education Association says a rally is set for Monday at union headquarters in Frankfort, followed by a march to the Capitol.

A small group of teachers and school employees gathered early Monday outside the Capitol Annex, where lawmakers have their offices. A large sign displayed outside the Annex said: "We've Had Enough." Outside the Capitol, a sign said: "You Make Us Sick."

Teachers have rallied several times during this year's legislative session to protest a pension bill. But Monday's event is shaping up as their biggest event as lawmakers try to reach agreement on a new budget.

Many Kentucky school districts are on spring break this week. But some districts not on break had canceled classes Monday because of teachers traveling to the Capitol.

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2:30 a.m.

Kentucky teachers are heading to the state Capitol to rally for education funding.

The rally Monday is happening after hundreds of teachers called in sick Friday to protest last-minute changes to their pension system.

The protest caused nearly two dozen districts to close. Some school districts have called off classes Monday, but much of the state is on spring break.

Lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene Monday to possibly vote on a two-year operating budget.

Teachers' union president Stephanie Winkler said last week that if the budget is not in the best interest of public education, students and public service, "then we will react."

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The Kentucky school closures come as thousands of Oklahoma teachers are expected to walk off the job and just a month after West Virginia teachers carried out a nine-day strike. Recent educator uprisings have swept states where Republicans control both the statehouse and the governor's office — leading some to say the events are part of a "red state revolt."

On Friday, dozens of Kentucky school districts, including Lawrence and Martin Counties were forced to shut their doors after hundreds of teachers staged a "sickout," calling in sick to protest the pension reform measure, which was tacked onto a sewage bill in committee on Thursday and passed within hours by both chambers of the legislature.

 

March 30, 2018

Attorney General tells large Frankfort teacher's group he will file suit 'as soon as he (Bevin) signs the bill'

 

FRANKFORT -- Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear will challenge the legislature’s controversial pension bill in court because he said it violates the non-voidable contract the state has made with teachers and other public workers.

More than 500 people showed up at the Capitol on Friday to protest the pension bill. Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear spoke in March to teachers who were rallying on the Capitol steps against a pension overhaul bill. Daniel Desrochers ddesrochers@herald-leader.comMore than 500 people showed up at the Capitol on Friday to protest the pension bill. Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear spoke in March to teachers who were rallying on the Capitol steps against a pension overhaul bill. Daniel Desrochers This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

“While that leadership broke their promise to you, I am going to keep my promise to you,” Beshear told hundreds of teachers gathered in the Capitol rotunda. “I will sue over this bill.”

Beshear said he will file suit as soon as the governor signs Senate Bill 151, a bill related to sewage regulations that the House amended Thursday to include a 291-page pension overhaul plan. The House and Senate gave the bill final approval within a matter of hours Thursday night.

The latest pension bill was modeled after Senate Bill 1, but several controversial proposals were removed. For example, it no longer cuts cost-of-living benefits for retirees and does not raise the retirement age for current teachers.

Beshear said the bill violates the contract in “at least 17 or 18” ways.

Though the latest bill has fewer changes that affect current teachers, it does prevent them from putting future unused sick days toward their retirement. Republican lawmakers, though, contend the use of sick days to enhance retirement benefits is not covered by the state’s inviolable contract with public employees.

“The sick leave is covered by the inviolable contract and just look at the harm the change has caused,” Beshear said. “We have 12 school districts closed today out of the change they are attempting to make on sick leave. They should recognize bad policy and illegal policy and repeal it.”

Beshear said he also plans to challenge the law based on Section 1 of KRS 6.350, which says a bill that makes changes to retirement benefits shall not be passed through committee without an actuarial analysis.

When Democrats raised objections over the lack of an actuarial analysis on the bill, House State Government Chairman Jerry Miller, R-Louisville, said he would pass the bill through regardless of what the statute said.

By Daniel Desrochers
Lexington Herald-Leader

March 29, 2018

Kentucky Work Ready Skills Initiative expanding technical educational training opportunities

Kentucky Press News Service

FRANKFORT – Projects funded by the $100 million KENTUCKY WORK READY SKILLS INITIATIVE (KWRSI) — and $150 million in locally matched funds — are off to a fast start in the state. Since January 2017, 40 projects have begun, with many already training students for high-demand technology jobs, according to a state news release.

“Kentucky is advancing rapidly in our mission to become America’s center for engineering and manufacturing excellence, and the Work Ready Skills Initiative is playing a significant role,” Gov. Matt Bevin said in a statement. “The innovative KWRSI collaborations between local communities, private sector employers, and educational institutions will be truly transformational. We are excited to continue this strong momentum in developing Kentucky’s workforce for the high-skills jobs of today and tomorrow.”

The initiative infuses resources to expand career and technical education facilities and upgrade equipment in schools through local partnerships between private industry and educational institutions.

The 40 projects were selected during two rounds of competition in 2016 and 2017. The locally driven projects are tailored to the workforce and industry needs of individual areas and will provide more than 30,000 new technical training seats annually across the state.

Brighton Center Photograph - Medical assistance trainee Julie Van Brunt, right, practices taking the blood pressure of fellow student Marlene Rogers at the Brighton Center’s Center for Employment Training in Newport. The job program received a $227,213 Kentucky Work Ready Skills Initiative grant to upgrade equipment to train students.Brighton Center Photograph - Medical assistance trainee Julie Van Brunt, right, practices taking the blood pressure of fellow student Marlene Rogers at the Brighton Center’s Center for Employment Training in Newport. The job program received a $227,213 Kentucky Work Ready Skills Initiative grant to upgrade equipment to train students.

“Since we awarded the first KENTUCKY WORK READY SKILLS INITIATIVE projects a year ago, the pace of activity across Kentucky in schools, training centers, and business and industry has been remarkable. It is astounding how quickly the KWRSI investment in training is making a difference in preparing Kentuckians for careers in high-demand technology fields,” said Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet Secretary Hal Heiner. “The ideas for all the KWRSI projects are locally driven by partnerships of employers, educators, elected officials and local leaders. The ripple effect we are seeing in communities is exactly what we were hoping for when we envisioned this initiative, and this is just the beginning.”

The initiative was passed and funded by the 2016 General Assembly and is administered by the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet with support from the Cabinet for Economic Development.

Launched in July 2016, KWRSI is aimed at developing a highly trained, modernized workforce to meet the needs of employers and promote sustainable incomes for Kentuckians.

Through the initiative, Kentucky has awarded $100 million in statewide bonds to train Kentuckians in the state’s top five growth sectors — advanced manufacturing, business services and information technology (IT), construction trades, healthcare and transportation and logistics.

Eric Keeling, principal at Warren County Area Technology Center, said their $557,726 KWRSI grant has already made an impact on their program.

“We’ve created a chain reaction. Because of the new equipment, we have been able to step up to advanced robotics, machining, welding and automotive, and have a new computer lab. Companies are seeing the new equipment and the quality of the program, and they are donating equipment and starting more apprenticeships. The grant has been a godsend for our students,” Keeling said in a news release. “The award has reinforced a culture of excellence, respect, integrity, character, commitment and leadership in our students and program.”

LIFT the TriState Photograph - Student Sheba Roberson hones her forklift operating skills at LIFT the TriState, a free logistics and warehousing training program. The 10-week job program offered by Freestore Foodbank in Northern Kentucky won a $267,000 Kentucky Work Ready Skills Initiative grant to provide training in the fast-growing field. LIFT the TriState Photograph - Student Sheba Roberson hones her forklift operating skills at LIFT the TriState, a free logistics and warehousing training program. The 10-week job program offered by Freestore Foodbank in Northern Kentucky won a $267,000 Kentucky Work Ready Skills Initiative grant to provide training in the fast-growing field.

 

In Northern Kentucky, the Freestore Foodbank is using its $267,000 KWRSI award to train and certify unemployed and underemployed adults in the warehousing and logistics field through its free, 10-week LIFT the TriState program. The program couples hands-on training with classroom curriculum at Gateway Community and Technical College (GCTC) so that students graduate with credentials in logistics, power equipment, forklift, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

All graduates from the project’s first class have secured jobs with pay starting between $14-$17 per hour plus full benefits. A second class has recently graduated.

“The WORK READY SKILLS INITIATIVE that Gov. Bevin promoted through these grants really allowed us to jump start the LIFT the TriState program to where it is right now. We would not have been able to provide the equipment and the racking system for our students to be able to get real hands-on experience in the logistics area without this funding,” said Kurt Reiber, president and CEO of Freestore Foodbank.

LIFT the TriState student Sheba Roberson, who is in the second class of trainees, was certified in forklift in just a few weeks even though she cannot drive a car. The program has boosted her self-confidence. “I feel I can do anything as long as I have the right support and help,” she said. “I love the hands-on experience that we get from the teachers. Everything we do brings me a step closer to my goal of having a career.”

The Brighton Center in Newport is using its $227,213 KWRSI grant to upgrade equipment to train students for healthcare, and business and computer technologies careers.

“Kentucky Work Ready has been an incredible opportunity for us to actually start a new skill and enhance our current skills in medical assisting and business and computer technology,” said Talia Frye, Brighton Center’s Center for Employment Training’s (CET) director of Workforce Innovation.

For student Rachael Schleper, who is training for a position in health technology and administration, preparing for a new career has been a family endeavor. Schleper accompanied her 21-year-old son to the Kentucky Career Center where they toured Brighton’s Center CET, and they both enrolled in classes.

“I just love it. I didn’t realize how many opportunities were available for adults that have children and want to brush up on their skills and need an opportunity because they don’t have skills for the workplace today,” Schleper said. “They focus on your career but also your mental health. They are with you every step of the way. They want to support you in every area of your life, not just learning a new skill and I really appreciate that. I’m glad I found it.”

Frye said the KWRSI grant is meeting a rapidly growing workforce demand in the healthcare field.

“In our region, healthcare is so important to the vitality of our community. In fact, the largest employer in Northern Kentucky is St. Elizabeth Healthcare. They employ over 8,000 people who go to work every day,” Frye said. “Medical assisting is the second most in-demand occupation in northern Kentucky. Medical assisting meets a great occupational demand in our region and it is the start of a great pathway because you can stack your education and credentials to move farther along and that’s important.”

Allen County Career and Technical Center received a $328,700 KWRSI grant to purchase equipment for the school’s automotive, IT, welding, industrial maintenance and nursing programs. “The grant means that we can prepare students for the workforce. Training on new equipment gives them a step up when they go to job interviews. It gives them an advantage when they are job hunting. New equipment prepares them for the jobs of today because they are using the same equipment in high school as the modern equipment in manufacturing jobs,” said Brian Carter, assistant superintendent of operations at Allen County Schools.

Because of the grant, the career and technical center is now offering night classes for certified nursing assistant (CNA) credentials for the adults.

“We are looking forward to purchasing the rest of our equipment and seeing the full force of this grant in action,” said Carter. 

For more information about the program and the projects, visit the Kentucky Work Ready Skills Initiative’s webpage on the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development website: educationcabinet.ky.gov.