Taking Attendance? KDE Reportedly Seeking Info On Teacher Sick Leave

Mar 14, 2019

Schools were shuttered again Thursday in the state's largest school district as teachers staged their sixth "sick-out" in the span of two weeks. And the state's top education official is reportedly seeking names.

A line to get into the Kentucky Capitol snakes down toward Capitol Avenue as teacher stage protests against several bills.
Credit Josh James / WUKY

Lively demonstrations persisted despite assurances from legislative leaders that the bills on educators' radar were all but dead. A smaller but no less vocal crowd of teachers assembled in the Capitol, making it clear they were in it for the long haul.

"I'm just so proud of all these members have shown up today, and the parents, and so many students that are here wanting to be a part of holding out legislators accountable," said Stephanie Winkler, head of the Kentucky Education Association, which says it has not called for sick-outs.

But not all were celebrating the teacher protests targeting House Bills 205 and 525, dealing with private school scholarship tax credits and the teacher pension board respectively.

The Louisville Courier Journal first reported that state Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis has requested the attendance records of teachers in 10 districts for the time period spanning the demonstrations.

"While it is important that administrators, teachers and students make their voices heard about issues related to public education policy, advocacy should under no circumstances be putting a stop to learning for entire communities,” Lewis explained in a statement.

Kentucky teachers are barred from striking under state law.

Lawmakers also expressed frustration that the sick-outs continued into Thursday, after efforts to quell them failed.

"Last night, you had a joint statement from majority and minority of members of leadership in both chambers reassuring (teachers) that these particular issues were handled, and they still choose to not let their kids go to school. But I think it's dead," Senator Chris McDaniel said.

But teachers and their advocates say it's a matter of trust — and Kentucky lawmakers lost that in 2018 when they passed pension reform late in the session inside a former waste water bill.

"There's so much distrust in government right now after the last session," Winkler said. "This is the fruit of that."

Thursday marked the final working day before Governor Bevin gets a chance to flex his veto muscles. The General Assembly will return for one more day to override vetoes or pass new bills on March 28th.