UPDATE | Teachers rally against bill in Floyd County
Legislators in Kentucky are approaching the final days of the legislative session, and teachers in Floyd County are speaking out against controversial bills.
"Last year the legislators in Frankfort came after our pensions, they'll probably come after them again, but they're coming after our schools now. That's not acceptable," Floyd County Education Association President Angela Coleman said.
Teachers from Floyd County and the surrounding areas stood united in front of the Attorney General's office in Prestonsburg on Saturday. The biggest concern was for House Bill 205, which would use tax credits and scholarships to reimburse a parent for sending kids to private or charter schools. Education leaders said every superintendent is against the bill.
"The bills that are being introduced are trying to chip away at what we're trying to do for our students," Sen. Johnny Ray Turner, (D) - District 29, said.
Teachers at the rally said the bill is concerning because public schools are already not fully funded.
There was no mention of a strike, or another "sick-out", but they are keeping a close eye on legislators.
"It's not about republicans, it's not about the democrats, it's about our kids and I think some people in power have forgotten that," Coleman said.
The educator group KY 120 United says they may push for a teacher strike depending on what happens in Frankfort in the coming weeks.
It's a fight that's been brewing for years.
"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.
Teachers in Kentucky, like those across the country, are opposing cuts to funding, cuts to benefits, and tax credits for scholarships to private schools.
On Monday the KY 120 United posted a letter where they referred to "Lines in the sand."
"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.
At a news conference Monday, a group of superintendents said a strike wasn't how they wanted to proceed.
"Obviously we would prefer that that not be the action taken," the superintendent of Woodford County, Scott Hawkins, said. "It’s important for us to be in school right now. To continue to do what is right for our students every day. We certainly believe if we can advocate for our legislators locally that’s the best course of action."
Bolander says they have thought about what a strike would be like for students and parents.
"The thought of not being there for our students is really the big one. That’s what we love. We love going to work every day. You have to love it, you’re not getting rich off of it," she said.
In the majority of the country, including Kentucky, it's illegal for teachers to go on strike.
That's also the case in West Virginia but they went on strike in February. Technically it was a work action with superintendents closing school for seven days.
Bolander said they aren't sure if that would be the same action KY 120 would push for if things didn't change.
"Every state that has struck, I believe where you have seen a teacher walk out, it has been illegal, even in West Virginia. So I guess we just have to hope they can’t arrest us all," she said.