‘Mayhem’: Bevin blasts request to close schools for protests

Published 11:49 am Monday, October 30, 2017

LEXINGTON (AP) — Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin blasted the director of the school superintendents organization for wanting schools to be closed for a day so that teachers can protest the governor’s plan to address the state’s woefully underfunded public retirement systems.

Bevin took to Facebook Live on Friday evening to air his frustrations with Tom Shelton, the executive director of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents, who had sent a letter to public school superintendents on Thursday, outlining a detailed plan to protest Bevin’s proposed pension fix, news outlets reported.

After reading from Shelton’s letter in front of a camera, Bevin argued that Shelton’s plan would bring “mayhem” to Kentucky, hurting students, parents and the state’s economy.

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“What (Shelton is) calling on is for schools to be shut down, for your children to be sent home, so teachers and superintendents and other people can come here and protest us saving the pension system,” Bevin said.

Bevin wants to call a special legislative session before year’s end to address the pension issue. The Courier-Journal reports that Bevin’s pension bill, a 505-page document, was released to legislators late Friday.

The governor says his plan keeps promises to public sector workers and resolves the problem, but education officials have said the proposal would wreak havoc on public education.

“I’m glad we have a bill to study and see the specific wording,” Louisville Democratic Rep. Jim Wayne, said on Saturday, after the bill’s release. “But if it reflects exactly what is in the plan, there’s no way I can hurt current and future retirees and new workers coming on who would be given some of the weakest pensions in the nation under this plan.”

Speaking with the Courier-Journal on Friday night, Shelton said he thinks schools should be allowed to close because it would be difficult for teachers and staff “to participate and be part of a process on a matter that affects their lives, their careers, and their futures. It’s a matter that affects the future of public education.”

Shelton said his request would not be necessary if superintendents had had more input into the Bevin plan.

“We’re working to develop another proposal for consideration and hope to have it ready soon,” he said.

Any school that would be closed to accommodate the teachers’ protests would make up that day later in the school year, Shelton said.