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Kentucky teachers walk out of classroom over pension concerns

(WSAZ)
Published: Mar. 30, 2018 at 10:04 AM EDT
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Teachers in Vanceburg, along with many other counties, are making their voices heard outside of the classroom today about their concerns on the state's public pension system.

It comes after the Kentucky Senate voted 22-15 yesterday to approve a bill that preserves most benefits for current workers. The bill still stirred anger among hundreds of teachers protesting in the Capitol, with many chanting they would vote lawmakers out of office in November.

As a result, the following schools were closed on Friday, March 30:

--Carter County

--Floyd County

--Johnson County

--Lawrence County, Ky.

--Lewis County

--Martin County

--Pike County, Ky.

--Raceland-Worthington

Republican Senator Joe Bowen said the bill puts the state on a pathway to paying down its debt while assuring the system's strong financial future.

But Democratic Senator Ray Jones said the bill would destroy everything teachers have worked toward for decades.

About 200 people gathered Thursday evening at the bottom of steps to the Senate chamber as senators discussed the measure that re-emerged suddenly earlier in the day.

The protesters are chanting "We'll remember in November" - an election-year warning to the Republican-led legislature. They also are chanting "Shame on you" and "West Virginia" - the latter a reference to a recent teachers' walkout in West Virginia over a pay dispute.

"We hoped that they listened to us and the bill was dead and then to kind of find out how they sneaked it in attached to a sewage bill with very little time for any lawmakers to even review it it was almost 300 pages it just has us shaking our heads like how can our government be this corrupt," Boyd County Education Association President Missy Conley said Thursday night.

The show of force comes amid growing unrest among public educators nationwide, led by thousands of West Virginia teachers who walked off the job for nine days earlier this year to secure a 5 percent pay raise.

Last week, about 2,000 teachers and other school employees rallied at Kentucky's Capitol with the goal of burying the proposed pension overhaul.

Thousands of teachers have protested in recent weeks, threatening lawsuits and a strike if the bill passes.

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