Fayette, Jefferson schools cancel after groups call for ‘sick out’

FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – Classes were cancelled for Thursday in Kentucky’s two largest school districts after advocates called for a teacher “sick out” in protest of legislation dealing with the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System.

Fayette County Public Schools and Jefferson County Public Schools announced Wednesday that classes were being cancelled.

Current and retired teachers have raised questions about House Bill 525, which would restructure the Teachers’ Retirement System board of trustees.

“It’s our money we want to put in and we want to oversee that money,” said Kentucky Education Association President Stephanie Winkler in a Facebook Live video calling on members of the KEA to reach out to their lawmakers.

KY 120 United, a network of teachers and other public school employees, issued the call via social media early Wednesday evening for a “sick-out” on Thursday to protest the bill.

The bill is scheduled to receive its initial hearing in the House State Government Committee Thursday at noon.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Ken Upchurch, R-Monticello, said in a statement Wednesday night he had been working for more than a week on a committee substitute that will not only increase the say teachers have but also the voice of retired educators.

“Despite this,” he said, “I am hopeful that we can still have a rational conversation on HB 525.”

Upchurch was clearly frustrated over the reaction that has come from discussions about the bill.

“It is staggering that people would strike so early in the process and more astonishing that the organization that says they represent teachers’ best interests has called for it,” Upchurch said.

Kentucky Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis said in a statement he didn’t agree with educators taking Thursday off.

“It is unfair to Kentucky’s students and families, unreasonable, and irresponsible to attempt to shut down our state’s public school system because a House committee will consider a bill,” Lewis said. “Educators can and should make their views known in Frankfort, but there is no reason for our kids not to be in school tomorrow.”

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