FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP/WYMT) - Kentucky's largest school district is closed again as about one-third of its teachers called in sick so they could protest at the state Capitol.
Tuesday was the fourth time in two weeks Jefferson County Public Schools had to close because it did not have enough substitutes to cover for absent teachers.
While Jefferson County was out Tuesday, Fayette County was in session. That doesn't mean they don't have a presence at the Capitol. Officials with the school system are using a delegated system to make their voices heard.
"We have 13 schools here today and we will have 18 tomorrow so we feel like the teachers are represented," said Jessica Hiler with Fayette County KEA.
School officials had hoped to avoid another "sickout" by agreeing to send a delegation of teachers to Frankfort to represent the district.
But shortly after 7 p.m. on Monday, Gov. Matt Bevin posted a video on social media with the caption: "SICK OF 'SICKOUTS'?" Three hours later, the school district announced it would close. Teachers from numerous districts joined Tuesday's protest.
Teachers, most of them wearing red, gathered in numerous areas of the Capital and they were heard loud and clear as lawmakers headed to and from the House and Senate chambers. They are worried about many things at the state legislature, including a proposal to create scholarship tax credits for private schools.
"So think it's really important that our teachers are here and they are paying attention to what our legislators are doing," said Jessica Hiler, a Fayette County teacher. "And they are taking into account the will of the people. These are their constituents, and they should be listening to us."
The session is supposed to adjourn Thursday and then come back for a one-day veto session at the end of the month.
Stephanie Winkler, president of the Kentucky Education Association, released the following statement about the video:
“Educators across Kentucky are defending attacks on public education funding by appealing to their elected officials. Through personal appeals, phone calls, emails or texts, thousands of educators, parents and concerned citizens have voiced their approval or opposition to legislation that affects our students and our public schools. In every county and school system, those who support public education are being heard. The governor has been well quoted for his disdain of the legislative process and the activism of those who have opposed some of his policies.
“Educators are sick and tired of being brushed off and vilified by this governor who has repeatedly disregarded our input and importance to the future of our Commonwealth. Citizens from Pikeville to Paducah have stood behind our efforts because they understand that we are standing up for their children and our students. We applaud the funding of pensions. We hope the governor applauds the activism and passion that educators have for our public schools and our students. We are Republicans, Independents and Democrats. But first we are educators who support public education. Where there is disagreement with our elected officials, educators will continue to have our voice heard in Frankfort.”