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April 11, 2018

Teachers hold rally in Letcher; classes could be canceled Friday as KEA calls for day off statewide...

Ky. Attorney General Andy Beshear tells teachers and other state workers in Whitesburg this morning (left) that he will ask for an injunction to stop the GOP pension bill from going into affect and also announced he will file suit today.Ky. Attorney General Andy Beshear tells teachers and other state workers in Whitesburg this morning (left) that he will ask for an injunction to stop the GOP pension bill from going into affect and also announced he will file suit today.

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear was expected to file suit against Republican lawmakers and Gov. Matt Bevin today after Bevin signed a teachers’ pension bill into law last night.

Beshear said in Whitesburg Tuesday that the bill approved by the legislature on a mostly party-line vote violates the inviolable contract with teachers in at least 15 different ways. His office is still analyzing the effects.

“This evening, if Gov. Bevin signs that pension bill, or tomorrow if it becomes law overnight, I am filing suit,” Bevin told an audience of several hundred teachers in the Letcher County Central High School auditorium.

Schools here will likely be closed on Friday. While a decision hasn’t officially been made, Letcher County Schools Superintendent Tony Sergent said there have been so many teachers who have called in sick that day that he is not sure there are enough substitutes to keep schools open.

Beshear said he would “fight till my dying breath” to overturn the law. He is seeking an injunction to prevent the law from taking effect, and said he will then push to get the law into court as quickly as possible so it can be overturned.


Beshear said the state Constitution requires bills to be read three times on three separate days, but instead Republican leadership attached the pension bill to a sewage bill that had already had two readings.


“What they did here was give a sewage two readings and at the last moment pull out 11 pages, put in 291 pages, claim it’s had those two readings and pass it through,” Beshear said. “I don’t know about you all, but that doesn’t sound like it fits the Constitution at all.”

Beshear, state House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins (D-Sandy Hook), State Sen. Johnny Ray Turner (D-Drift) and State Rep. Angie Hatton (D-Whitesburg) rallied the teachers during a swing through eastern Kentucky, promising educators that they will stand behind them, and giving Bevin, who has engaged in insults against teachers for months, a taste of his own medicine.

Beshear called the bill, “the worst of the worst” in government, but told teachers they were the “best of the best.”

“Twelve thousand strong marching on the Capitol, not only standing up for your rights, but standing up for public education. Many of you standing up for the next generation of teachers who haven’t even started, demanding good government from your government has been inspiring. You all are incredible.”

“I have been in what I think you call a toxic environment in Frankfort for a few years,” Beshear told teachers. “The governor started calling me names about a year before he started calling everybody else names, but I’m getting pretty used to it.

Adkins, who is a former teacher and the son of a schoolteacher, boomed out a rapid-fire speech, at one point calling Bevin “disgusting.”

“I know schoolteachers. I was raised by them, and I know this for a fact: You’re not ignorant, you are well informed, you are not overpaid, and I can tell you this right now, you don’t have a thug mentality,” Adkins said, quoting some of the things Bevin has said about teachers.

Adkins said teachers, firefighters, police officers and other public employees deserve respect because they have “the awesome responsibility” of helping mould children’s lives.

“You can talk out of one side of your mouth about record investments and growing our economy in Kentucky, but you can’t talk out of the other side of your mouth about cutting public education and hurting schoolteachers’ retirement and public employees’ retirement as well. You can’t do that. They go hand in hand,” he said.

Turner, a teacher for 28 years, said the consultants hired by Bevin who brought the governor’s proposal to the legislature last September never answered his question about what it would do to public education because it would have destroyed it. The bill that passed was not as draconian as what the governor asked for, but Turner said it was still too much.

“I was against this bill. It was wrong,” Turner said. “It was wrong what they did to people.”

Hatton also tore into Bevin, telling teachers they have to keep fighting.

“I know what the governor’s problem is,” she said, turning to Beshear.

“You mean there’s just one?” he asked.

“I know what his main problem is,” Hatton said, correcting herself. “ He didn’t go to public school, he doesn’t send his kids to public school, and he ain’t from Kentucky. He doesn’t know about you what I know.”

Hatton and Adkins said the revenue bill vetoed by the governor last week because it did not go far enough was actually a tax cut for the rich, and would have cost the state more money than it brought in while shifting costs to the poor. They expect Bevin to call a special session to address a different bill more to his liking.

Asked after the meeting if he thinks the pension bill was an attempt to weaken public education in favor of charter schools, another of the governor’s initiatives, Beshear said, “I believe the current administration would prefer private companies run all of Kentucky’s schools.”

A teacher in the audience from Hazard asked during a question and answer session whether it is illegal for teachers to strike. Beshear told him that is the law.

“I can’t tell you to do it because I am the Attorney General and it’s against the law,” he said. “But the way things are right now, I can’t imagine there’s a prosecutor in this state that would take that case.”

By Sam Adams
The Mountain Eagle



New wave of school closures? Kentucky teachers union calls for a 'day of action' on Friday

By Mandy McLaren and Darcy Costello
Louisville Courier Journal

Just a day after Gov. Matt Bevin warned that a teacher walkout would be "irresponsible" and a "mistake," the statewide teachers union called for public employees to return to Frankfort on Friday when lawmakers return to session.

Stephanie Winkler, president of the Kentucky Education Association, told Courier Journal on Tuesday that the organization was encouraging members who can legally be in Frankfort on Friday to do so, calling it a "day of action at the Capitol."

"Closing schools is a decision for the superintendent to make; we have asked superintendents that plan to be open on Friday to allow as many people as possible to attend using any available personal or professional leave," Winkler said. "There will not be a rally at KEA HQ on Friday. All activity will be focused on legislative advocacy at the Capitol and Annex." 

Nearly 30 school districts closed on March 30 due to a sickout so teachers could protest against the way lawmakers passed the pension reform bill, which was introduced and passed through both chambers in a matter of hours. The next Monday, districts in all 120 counties were closed as more than half of schools started spring break and thousands of teachers flocked to Frankfort for a rally.

Bevin signed the pension bill into law Tuesday, a day after vetoing the budget and tax reform bills. He advised against a teacher action at his press conference announcing the vetoes, saying the KEA is a problem.

He reiterated that sentiment in an interview with WHAS Radio late Tuesday afternoon, saying that the union has been on both sides of the tax and budget bills and are not looking out for the interests of teachers. 

"They're absolute frauds. They are not looking out for the best interests of their teachers. They're looking out for the best interests of themselves," Bevin said. "The KEA leadership is a fraud." 

Brent McKim, the president of the Jefferson County teachers union, is urging teachers to use a personal day, if possible, to travel to Frankfort on Friday. 

Thousands of teachers from across Kentucky rally in Frankfort
A possible sickout is a "very serious issue," he said. 

"We have seen teachers in JCPS and across the state in the past lose their jobs due to misuse of a sick day," he said. "It's not something to take lightly."

When school boards set calendars, superintendents have the authority to close school only if it's an emergency, said Tom Shelton, the executive director of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents. 

The group is encouraging each district to send a "delegation" to Frankfort, Shelton said. 

"We just encourage every superintendent to continue to allow that to happen to make sure that staff are representing them and their district," he said. "... But obviously, local circumstances might call for them to do more than that." 

Hardin County Schools, for example, plans on sending a small group of teachers to the Capitol, the district's communications director Melissa Blankenship said. 

"I don't think we're anticipating a closure at this point," she said. 

At least one other district, Trimble County Schools, has already announced plans to close Friday "so that our school educators and personnel are able to travel to Frankfort in support of public education." 

"We hope that making the decision this early in the week is helpful in providing ample time to make arrangements for childcare, etc.," the district posted on Facebook on Monday. "... Thank you for your support and we apologize for any inconveniences that this may cause for you or your family."


April 11, 2018

Democrats say bill 'sure to be thrown out in court'

Law will require future teachers to reach age 65 before drawing full retirement benefits 


Gov. Matt Bevin signed the controversial pension reform bill into law on Tuesday, giving Republican leaders' much-debated changes to teachers' retirement plans a final seal of approval.

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin signed Senate Bill 151 into law, making permanent changes to the troubled pension system. (WCHS/WVAH)Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin signed Senate Bill 151 into law, making permanent changes to the troubled pension system. (WCHS/WVAH)Senate Bill 151, the final version of the legislature's pension reform bill, was sent to the governor's desk March 29. Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes' office received the bill — emblazoned with the governor's signature — around 6 p.m. Tuesday, according to her communications director, Bradford Queen.

Bevin signed the pension bill into law one day after he vetoed two other high-profile pieces of legislation: The tax reform and budget bills crafted by Republican leaders in the Kentucky House of Representatives and the Senate.

When he told reporters about those vetoes Monday morning, he also cautioned that SB 151 "doesn't even come close" to solving the state's pension crisis. 

When Bevin said he had signed the pension bill during an interview on WHAS Radio late Tuesday afternoon, he made similar comments about the need for additional reforms.

"Again, is the bill what it could’ve been and should’ve been and ultimately needs to be? No," he said. "But is it a very good bill, in that there’s nothing in it that’s bad for Kentucky? Absolutely."

Bevin praised the legislators who backed the pension bill because it was "not an easy vote." (No Democrats voted for SB 151 when the legislature passed it last month, and some Republicans voted against it too.)



Democrat Minority leader comments on GOP bill signing



“The other Democratic House members and I are deeply troubled by the signing of Senate Bill 151. This piece of legislation – written in secret and passed in less than nine hours – negatively impacts the retirement systems for teachers and public employees and is certain to be thrown out in court. This law will also cost those very same taxpayers billions of dollars more over the next 30 years by resetting the timeframe to pay off the state retirement systems’ liabilities. I cannot think of another law that will cost us more and provide us less than this one.”

– House Democratic Leader Rocky Adkins



"These folks stepped up and did what was right for Kentucky," Bevin said Tuesday of those who supported the bill. "And it’s the first of many steps that will ultimately need to be taken if we’re going to actually keep sending pension checks to people.”

Teachers' unions and many rank-and-file educators participated in public protests after Republican legislators unveiled a surprise version of the pension bill on March 29.

The updated proposal was attached to SB 151, which originally focused on wastewater services, and passed the House and Senate the same day it was introduced. Since then, many critics of the pension bill have referred to it in terms of sewage.

After Bevin signed SB 151 Tuesday, Kentucky Democratic Party Chair Ben Self quickly responded with a statement criticizing the governor and GOP leaders in the legislature.

"By signing this pension-sewage bill, Gov. Bevin and the Republican leadership have just dealt a devastating blow to Kentucky’s public education system, public employees, the teaching profession and benefits for first responders," Self said. "It's obvious that their priorities are to the mega-donors who paid for their campaigns and not the people of Kentucky."

Teachers have been the most vocal group of stakeholders throughout Kentucky's months long debate over pension reform.


Here are some concessions teachers got — and those they didn't — in the pension bill Bevin just signed:


Defined benefits

New Kentucky teachers will no longer be guaranteed defined retirement benefits. Instead, they will be placed into a "hybrid" retirement plan that includes features of both a traditional pension — like teachers in Kentucky have now — and a 401(k)-style savings plan. In this hybrid plan, teachers would contribute 9.1 percent of their salary to the plan, while employers would contribute 8 percent. The plan is portable, meaning that if future teachers decide to leave Kentucky public schools, they can take their plan and benefits with them.

Cost-of-living increases

The bill does not include any reduction in annual cost-of-living increases for retired teachers, leaving them at 1.5 percent. Earlier versions of the pension bill had proposed not only reducing the adjustment, but also freezing it for five years. 

Sick day benefits

Under the bill, teachers would only be able to use sick days that they've accumulated through Dec. 31, 2018, toward calculating their retirement benefits. An earlier version of the pension bill had capped benefits at the number of days accrued through July 31, 2018.

This change was originally proposed under the Superintendents’ Shared Responsibility Plan, which the Kentucky Education Association supported.

Teachers will be able to cash in sick days earned after January 1, 2019, when they retire. 

Inviolable contract

The bill ends the inviolable contract for new teachers and some other public employees hired after July 1. The inviolable contract language prohibits legislators from reducing, changing or repealing parts of employees' benefits; removing this for new teachers means lawmakers can make adjustments to those employees' retirement plans.

Retirement age

The bill does not change how long current teachers must work before being eligible for full retirement benefits, but future teachers would need to turn 65 years old and have at least five years of service to get full benefits, or would need to be at least 57 years old and have an age and years of service that add up to at least 87.

Health care costs

The bill requires Kentucky Retirement Systems employees hired between 2003 and 2008 to pay an additional 1 percent of their pay for health care benefits in retirement. An earlier version of the bill would have had employees contribute a phased-in amount of up to 3 percent.

By Morgan Watkins and Mandy McLaren
Louisville Courier Journal

 Adkins comments from 

April 9, 2018

In 1767, Daniel Boone discovered a passage through the 125-mile stretch of Pine Mountain and dubbed it “The Breaks.”In 1767, Daniel Boone discovered a passage through the 125-mile stretch of Pine Mountain and dubbed it “The Breaks.”


You may never have heard of Breaks Interstate Park, but you’ll recognize the voice of the man who narrates a new documentary about the region, which covers 4,500 acres to the east of Elkhorn City, Kentucky.

Mike Rowe, of “Dirty Jobs” and “Deadliest Catch” fame, narrates “The Breaks: Centuries of Struggle.”Mike Rowe, of “Dirty Jobs” and “Deadliest Catch” fame, narrates “The Breaks: Centuries of Struggle.”Starting Monday, television personality Mike Rowe, of “Dirty Jobs” and “Deadliest Catch” fame, narrates “The Breaks: Centuries of Struggle.”

In 1767, Daniel Boone discovered a passage through the 125-mile stretch of Pine Mountain and dubbed it “The Breaks.”

Breaks Canyon, which cuts through an expanse of relatively unspoiled Appalachian wilderness, is one of the deepest in the eastern United States. It is sometimes referred to as “The Grand Canyon of the South.” Hey, who knew?

The award-winning film documents the history of the area and tells the story of six men who have called the area their home and struggled to protect this American treasure.

The documentary is scheduled to air on Kentucky PBS:

❚ KET: 9 p.m. April 9.
❚ KET2: 10 p.m. April 10.
❚ KET: 2 p.m. April 15.
❚ KETKY: Midnight May 9.
❚ KETKY: 7 a.m. May 29.
❚ KETKY: 6 p.m. May 29.
❚ KETKY: 5 a.m. May 30.


“The Breaks: Centuries of Struggle” was produced by Friends of Breaks Park in collaboration with the University of Pikeville.

Andrew Reed, director of film and media arts and assistant professor at the university, co-directed the film with Curt Mullins Jr.