Teachers' union says education commissioner is trying to scare teachers into silence

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WYMT/WKYT) - The rift between the Kentucky government and teachers has grown once again.

Sister station WKYT reports Kentucky Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis sent a letter to 10 school districts, asking for the names of teachers who participated in the recent "sickout" days.

"They have the same right that I have to be at the Capitol and protest and do whatever they need to do," said Lewis. "What we don't have the right to do is to call in sick when we're not sick."

The Kentucky teacher's union called it a scare tactic to silence teachers.

The Kentucky Education Association said in a statement:

At his press conference earlier today, Commissioner Lewis said that his demand for the names of educators who called in sick on specific days of the legislative session is not a scare tactic. But all educators, including the school administrators who received the Commissioner’s “requests” through his general counsel, know better. By requesting this information through his attorney and citing his broad investigatory and subpoena powers under KRS 156.210, the Commissioner is using the power of his office to compile an “enemies list” of educators for the Bevin Administration. This tactic serves only one purpose -- to intimidate educators, public employees, school board members and superintendents across the Commonwealth and keep them from speaking out.

Each school district determines their sick leave policies and practices in compliance with the applicable statute. Commissioner Lewis claims that he wants it to remain a local issue, but his heavy-handed exercise of state oversight authority speaks otherwise. We also want to believe the Commissioner when he says that it’s not his goal to discipline individual teachers who called in sick. But if that’s not his goal, then what is he trying to achieve? Who is he targeting? And why now?

You can watch Lewis' news conference below. (If viewing on a mobile app, click the link to view in a web browser.)

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