#RedforEd Victory in Kentucky: Democrat Governor ‘Reinterprets State Law,’ Declares Teacher ‘Sick-Outs’ Now Legal

Apparent Gov.-elect Andy Beshear celebrates with supporters after voting results showed the Democrat holding a slim lead over Republican Gov. Matt Bevin at C2 Event Venue on November 5, 2019 in Louisville, Kentucky. Bevin, who enjoyed strong support from President Donald Trump, did not concede after results showed Beshear leading …
John Sommers II/Getty Images

The #RedforEd movement’s support for Democrat Gov. Andy Beshear, who defeated incumbent Republican Gov. Matt Bevin in Kentucky in November, has already paid off big time for the state’s teachers’ union.

As Bloomberg Law reported last week:

Since taking office in December [Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear] has reinterpreted state law to give teachers permission to stage “sick-outs” at the statehouse without fear of reprisal from the state’s Labor Cabinet. Educators are optimistic, even though winning extra pay means getting buy-in from a skeptical Republican-controlled legislature.

Bloomberg Law also reported:

Teachers [in the state of Washington] created enough political pressure to get a $2 billion revenue package through the state legislature. They then had to bring that force into the bargaining room, to seek higher salaries from district officials interested in spending money elsewhere.

Teachers in Kentucky are hoping to use that playbook in the current budget session, especially because their organizing and support helped put Gov. Andy Beshear (D) in office. Teachers have spent years staging “sick-outs” that sent thousands of red-clad protesters to the state capital to decry bills paring back pension benefits and tweaking the structure of the state’s education system.

Beshear, who filed suit to fight a law that trimmed teachers’ pension benefits during his time as state attorney general, has promised to give teachers a $2,000 pay raise.

As Breitbart News reported, support from the #RedforEd movement and Kentucky’s public school teachers drove Democrat Beshear’s narrow victory over Republican Bevin in the November 2019 Kentucky gubernatorial race.

Newly appointed Kentucky Secretary of Labor Larry L. Roberts wrote the Kentucky Office of Inspector General on December 30, 2019 about the determination made by former Gov. Bevin’s Secretary of Labor David Dickerson in August that “[m]ore than 1,000 Kentucky teachers broke the state’s labor laws when they called in sick to participate in #RedforEd promoted protests over their pension funds at the state capitol this spring” had engaged in an illegal work stoppage.

“In a press release dated August 16, 2019, the former Labor Cabinet Secretary . . . stated his conclusion that these 1,074 individuals ‘did violate Kentucky law,’ although he declined to impose any penalties on these individuals,” Secretary of Labor Roberts wrote:

The former Secretary’s conclusion was improper and contrary to law. First, he failed to give these teachers notice and an opportunity to be heard before adjudging their guilt. Second, their was no “strike” or “work stoppage” under KRS 336.130(1) because teachers were exercising constitutional rights to speech, petition, and assembly when they came to the Capitol, and were not engaged in a dispute with their employers concerning the terms of their employment.

Accordingly, I hereby rescind the determination of the prior Labor Cabinet Secretary, and conclude their was no “strike” or “work stoppage. (emphasis added)

KRS 336.130 (1), found in the portion of the Kentucky Revised Statutes that deals with labor relations, states, “Employees, collectively and individually, may strike, engage in peaceful picketing, and assemble collectively for peaceful purposes, except that no public employee, collectively or individually, may engage in a strike or a work stoppage.” (emphasis added)

“Nothing in this statute . . .  shall be construed as altering, amending, granting, or removing the rights of public employees to associate collectively for self-organization and designate collectively representatives of their own choosing to negotiate the terms and conditions of their employment to effectively promote their own rights and general welfare,” KRS 336.130 (1) concludes.

At issue here is whether these 1,074 teachers had a contractual right to take a sick day when they were in fact, not sick at all but instead “exercising their constitutional rights to speech, petition and assembly,” as Gov. Beshear’s new Labor Cabinet Secretary Larry L. Roberts asserted in his December 31, 2019 letter.

KY 120 United, the Kentucky #RedforEd group, called for the February 2019 teachers “sick-out.”

“Kentucky’s two largest school districts will be closed Thursday after a grassroots network of teachers called for a sickout to protest a bill that would restructure the board that oversees the state’s teacher pension system,” the Louisville Courier-Journal reported on February 27, 2019:

Jefferson County Public Schools and Fayette County Public Schools each announced late Wednesday that they did not have enough substitutes to cover the number of teacher absences reported.

Roughly 40 percent of the district’s school employees said they would not be showing up to work on Thursday, FCPS said.

KY 120 United, a group that formed during last year’s teacher protests, called for the sickout Wednesday evening on social media.

KY 120 United, which is not formally associated with the state’s teachers’ union, the Kentucky Education Association, immediately celebrated the Beshear administration’s decision to “reinterpret state law” and declare their tactic legal in this tweet:

The Kentucky Education Association was equally pleased with Beshear’s decision.

Earlier in December, Beshear expressed his gratitude for the key role teachers played in his election by naming teachers to serve as grand marshalls of his inaugural parade, as Kentucky Today reported:

The vote from teachers, who expressed anger over Gov. Matt Bevin’s action on the their pension and were offended by some off-handed comments, was a large reason why Beshear will replace Bevin as governor.

“I want to show my appreciation for our public educators, who work tirelessly, every day to improve the lives of our children and lift up our communities, and that is why I am naming them inauguration parade grand marshals,” Beshear said.

Kentucky Education Association President Eddie Campbell called naming teachers as grand marshals is a tribute to every educator in the state.

“It signals Gov.-elect Beshear’s and Lt. Gov.-elect Coleman’s clear commitment to public education and a renewed respect for Kentucky’s educators, who faced withering attacks from the previous administration,” Campbell said. “As educators, we look forward to working with the Beshear administration to find solutions to the challenges facing public education and creating a brighter future for Kentucky’s students.”

The Courier-Journal captured the events of that day:

As his horse-drawn carriage reached the Kentucky Education Association headquarters on Capital Avenue, Gov. Andy Beshear rose from his seat and shouted two words to the cheering teachers lining the curb: “Thank you!”

Rung in with handbells at a midnight ceremony, blessed at an early morning prayer service and feted in a parade, Andrew Graham Beshear on Tuesday became governor of Kentucky, riding a wave of support from educators throughout the state.

Beshear, 42, a Democrat, becomes the first son to follow his father as Kentucky governor. Steve Beshear served two terms as governor, from 2007-2015, and he and his wife, Jane, followed behind Andy and his wife, Britainy, in the parade, also drawing cheers from the crowd.

“Kentucky’s public school students have performed slightly below national averages in a number of the most recent standardized tests for reading and math,” as Breitbart News reported in August:

“Despite years of effort in classrooms, Kentucky still has significant numbers of students achieving at the lowest levels and too little performing at the highest, according to a Herald-Leader analysis of the 2016-17 statewide scores released Thursday by the Kentucky Department of Education,” the Herald-Leader reported in September 2017.

“Consider one-fourth of the state’s high school students earn the lowest marks possible in math and one-third scored the lowest in reading. Meanwhile, only half of the state’s elementary students can read or perform math at high achievement levels,” the Herald-Leader noted.

This past September, the Herald-Leader reported “In most areas, Kentucky schools have not made much progress at all in the last five years, Kentucky Interim Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis said in releasing statewide accountability results for 2017-2018.”

The #RedforEd movement is 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,” as Breitbart News reported in February 2019:

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.

As Breitbart News reported earlier this month, teachers’ unions in Minnesota and Florida have accelerated their political activism in 2020.

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