Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin’s (R) administration is demanding that some of the state’s school districts hand over lists of teachers who allegedly participated in “sickouts” to protest legislation they believe would harm their already imperiled pension fund.
The Kentucky Labor Cabinet issued a subpoena to Jefferson County Public Schools, the massive district surrounding Louisville, on Wednesday.
Representatives for at least two other districts, Bullitt County Public Schools and Oldham County Schools, confirmed with the Courier-Journal, a Kentucky newspaper, that they also received subpoenas.
In addition to names, the Bevin administration is requesting to see any doctor’s notes submitted by the teachers and copies of the schools’ sick leave policy, along with other documentation.
The demand largely mirrors that of Kentucky Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis, who asked Jefferson County and nine other districts for lists of participating teachers last month; Jefferson handed over its list on March 25. Lewis said he would not take further action if the protests stopped.
But the governor’s move heightens the tension between his administration and the state’s teachers, who led massive protests last year over pension concerns. (They succeeded in securing a hike for public education spending.)
KY 120 United, a group that formed last year, has said it specifically opposes House Bill 525, which would change the way the pension board is set up.
Teaching jobs in Kentucky are not eligible for social security benefits upon retirement. Instead, Kentucky teachers rely on a pension fund that is currently facing a huge funding crisis due largely to risky management decisions.
“If this well dries up, we have nothing,” one retired Jefferson County teacher, Lauri Wade, told the Courier-Journal during last year’s protests.
Educators staged the coordinated protests six times in a two-week period, according to WDRB, a local news station. Due to a lack of enough substitutes, some of the districts were forced to close during the sickouts.