Local #RedforEd Backed Teacher Sickout in Kentucky, May Call for Strike

PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 26: Arizona teachers march through downtown Phoenix on their way to the State Capitol as part of a rally for the #REDforED movement on April 26, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. Teachers state-wide staged a walkout strike on Thursday in support of better wages and state funding …
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A Kentucky group that is part of the #RedforEd movement launched a teacher sickout in that state last week and may call for a statewide teachers strike if the Kentucky General Assembly passes legislation this session it does not like.

WJHL reported the February 28 sickout “was organized by the group KY 120 United, a reference to the state’s 120 counties, which encouraged teachers in a Facebook post Wednesday night to call in sick.”

KY 120 United is a #RedforEd associated group, which, according to its Facebook page, was founded on March 8, 2018, just a few days after 24-year-old teacher Noah Karvelis launched the #RedforEd movement nationally in the first week of March 2018.

“We are the public face of KY 120 United. #120Strong supports teachers, state workers, and allies in all 120 counties. Pensions. Budget. Vote them out,” the group’s Facebook page, which features images of red-clad protesters and a logo that features a red map of the state of Kentucky emblazoned with “#120 Strong,” states.

Nema Brewer, “a multimedia specialist for the Fayette County, Ky., school district,” is a co-founder of KY 120 United, Education Week reported:

When Kentucky legislators began debating changes to public pension plans this spring, she started paying attention. Brewer, 44, and a friend started a Facebook group, “Kentucky 120 United,” named after the 120 counties in the state. They recruited public employees (mostly teachers) from each county to be members, and then found “zone leaders” for each of the state’s six congressional districts.

“We knew we were building up to something,” Brewer said, citing her goals as threefold: protect pensions, protect the budget, and campaign to vote legislators out.

After Kentucky lawmakers rushed a bill with pension changes for new teachers through the legislature, Brewer posted on the page that a walkout was on. Hundreds of teachers headed to the Capitol in Frankfort the next day, forcing about 20 districts to close.

As Breitbart News reported in February:

A well-funded and subversive leftist movement of teachers in the United States threatens to tilt the political balance nationwide in the direction of Democrats across the country as Republicans barely hang on in key states that they need to hold for President Donald Trump to win re-election and for Republicans to have a shot at retaking the House and holding onto their Senate majority.

This teachers union effort, called #RedforEd, has its roots in the very same socialism that President Trump vowed in his 2019 State of the Union address to stop, and it began in its current form in early 2018 in a far-flung corner of the country before spreading nationally. Its stated goals–higher teacher pay and better education conditions–are overshadowed by a more malevolent political agenda: a leftist Democrat uprising designed to flip purple or red states to blue, using the might of a significant part of the education system as its lever.

Last week’s sickout in Kentucky was a political statement of opposition and “came the day lawmakers in the Republican-controlled state House of Representatives voted to advance House Bill 525, a proposal to change how people are nominated to the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System’s board of trustees,” the Courier-Journal reported:

WJHL provided more details on the February 28 sickout:

At least six Kentucky school districts were forced to close Thursday – including the two largest systems in the state – as hundreds of teachers called in sick to protest what one leader called “half-truths” and “shadiness” at the state legislature. . .

Within hours, the state’s two largest school districts in Jefferson and Fayette counties announced they would close because they didn’t have enough teachers to cover classes. Districts in Marion, Carter, Letcher and Boyd counties were also closed Thursday. In Fayette County, officials said, at least 40 percent of teachers called in sick.

On Thursday morning last week, KY 120 issued this two-part statement on its official Twitter account:

On Monday of this week, KY 120 United issued a statement that called its opposition to House Bill 525 a “Line in the Sand”:

As Public Employees we have exhausted all methods of communication with our legislators within the Kentucky General Assembly. We have called. We have emailed. We have spoken face to face through one-on-one meetings with our representatives. We have shown up at Town Hall Forums across the state. We have rallied at the Capitol and in our hometowns.

Yet, the legislature continues to ignore our pleas to end these attacks. They continue to ignore our plea for new sources of revenue (casino gaming, medical marijuana tax, etc) to secure the Public Pensions and prevent the constant cuts to vital services.

For the past year we have actively and diligently worked with both political parties to develop a permanent solution to no avail.We, the Public Employees of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, are prepared to strike for the betterment of our state, the survival of our communities, and the economic security of our families if the Kentucky General Assembly does any of the following:

  • Attempts to provide scholarship tax credits for private schools, thus reducing public monies available to public schools
  • Attempts to create a funding mechanism for Charter Schools, thus reducing public monies available to community public schools
  • Attempts to reduce Defined Benefit Pension benefits to public employees
  • Attempts to remove new/future school employees from the inviolable contract
  • Attempts to reduce salaries of public employees

These are our lines in the sand. Enough is enough.

On Wednesday, teachers in Jefferson County Public Schools, which covers metropolitan Louisville, staged a sickout because they oppose another bill (House bill 205)  currently before the state legislature that would private tax credits for donations to scholarships at private schools, as the Courier-Journal reported:

“No movement to get change is going to be comfortable for everyone,” said Katie Cook, a teacher for Jefferson County Public Schools. “But someone’s got to get the ball rolling.”

Cook was among the hundreds of JCPS teachers who traveled to Frankfort on Wednesday after too many staff absences forced the district to close its doors to students.

By Wednesday evening, the district’s fate was in flux again. As teachers left a long day at the legislature, some said they were ready to request another sick day.

It was not immediately clear whether KY 120 United, the group that called for a sickout on Feb. 28, would back up JCPS teachers trying for another shutdown.

“Concerning the cancellation of school today in Jefferson County: KY 120 United did not ask for JCPS to take action. Other districts are also cancelled due to weather and illness. However, we hope to see many red shirts in Frankfort today,” KY 120 United said on its Facebook page early Wednesday morning.

Brad Hughes, a retired journalist who writes a daily education blog, tweeted this about the second sickout on Wednesday:

Also on Wednesday, WSAZ reported, “KY 120 United says they may push for a teacher strike depending on what happens in Frankfort in the coming weeks”:

“We’ve shown up, we’ve gone to town halls, we’ve written emails daily. We’ve taken our personal days and gone to Frankfort and had meetings,” said Henry Clay teacher Jeni Bolander with Ky 120 United.

“Any kind of a tax credit or charter school funding. Any alterations of our pensions, especially since they will not consider raising new revenue,” Bolander said referring to issues they consider nonstarters.

The group got enough teachers to call in sick last week that schools in Fayette, Jefferson, and Madison counties had to close.

“This is an absolute last resort for us. When we feel like our efforts are exhausted that’s where we’ll have to go,” she said.

Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican, pushed back against the Wednesday sickout in Jefferson County Public Schools, as Kentucky.com reported:

Bevin noted most teachers in Kentucky are focused on students.

“It’s crazy to me,” Bevin said of the Louisville sickout. “It’s so irresponsible that we are not putting families and the children first.”

“The reality is this,” said Bevin. “This tax credit allows those who have been blessed with resources to be able to give those to someone else to help them use for their child a different alternative.”

Deliberations on House Bill 525 continued in the Kentucky General Assembly on Thursday.

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