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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 4/4/18

Teachers in Revolt: Meet the Educators in Kentucky & Oklahoma Walking Out over School Funding

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And I was there with my daughter, who is a public school student who wanted to be in Frankfort to support her public school teachers and to support public employees across Kentucky. And we made our way through the crowd, speaking to people, high-fiving with people, saying to people, "Thank you for being here. Thank you for speaking up for the people who can't make it to Frankfort." And for both of us, we understood clearly why it was such a tight pathway to get from my office in the Capitol Annex into the Capitol building. And that was just fine, because we weren't the legislators who were trying to destroy public education or hurt public employees and public teachers. Instead, we -- you know, I'm a legislator. My daughter is a student who supports public education. So we weren't afraid to walk through the crowd. We walked through the crowd, and we knew we were walking through a group of friends and family members who were there standing up for themselves, while I went into the House chambers to fight for and with them.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain, State Representative Scott, the whole issue of demanding a reversal to a provision in a recently passed bill about sewage treatment that guts the pension benefits?

REP. ATTICA SCOTT: So, the sewage pension bill, Senate Bill 151, on the Thursday before Good Friday, that morning, it was a sewage bill. And by that afternoon, it was the so-called pension reform bill, a bill that members of the committee only had about five minutes to read, a bill that in fact is probably illegal because we did not have an actuarial analysis, a fiscal impact statement, on the bill and how it would impact the inviolable contract that we have with our public educators. And yet, members of the committee, then those of us on the House floor, were expected to vote on that bill, pass it out, with little to no debate in the committee.

We had extensive debate on the House floor, but it passed anyway, because, as Mickey said, the governor and his followers in the Legislature are determined to destroy public education. And taking away the agreement that we made with teachers, the inviolable contract, and moving their retirement benefits into a 401(k) plan, that violates our commitment to our public employees. And the way in which we -- and I say "we" because I'm part of the Legislature, but it's really the so-called new Republican majority. The way that they pushed that bill forward made it very clear that they knew that what they were doing was wrong. They knew that what they were doing was not in the best interest of the commonwealth of Kentucky. And those of us who are on the right side of this issue knew it, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: I understand that the Education Association called for everyone to wear red, a kind of -- oh, wearing red is the sign of solidarity in a red-state revolt. Mickey, are you wearing red for ed?

MICKEY McCOY: You know, it just happened to just fit so well that I put it on.

AMY GOODMAN: And State Rep. Scott, same with you, your blouse?

REP. ATTICA SCOTT: I'm definitely wearing red for public ed.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, on Tuesday night, independent Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted out a video message applauding the teachers in Oklahoma and Kentucky.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: You know, there are pundits out there who talk about blue states and red states and purple states. I have never believed that. I think that any state in this country which has working people struggling economically, struggling to send their kids to school, struggling for healthcare, struggling for child care, that is a state that can become progressive. And I want to applaud the teachers in West Virginia, in Oklahoma, in Kentucky -- so-called red states -- who are helping to lead this country to change our national priorities, who are saying loudly and clearly that we've got to take care of our kids, we've got to take care of our schools, and that is more important than giving tax breaks to billionaires and large corporations. Thank you, teachers in West Virginia. Thank you, teachers in Oklahoma. Thank you, teachers in Kentucky. We're with you. Take care.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that is Senator Bernie Sanders. You are in the state, State Representative Scott, of Kentucky. That is the state of the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell. Has he weighed in in any way? And how can the federal body, the Congress, deal with this strike, that is now crossing the country, from West Virginia to Oklahoma to Kentucky?

REP. ATTICA SCOTT: Unfortunately, the Senate majority leader has not weighed in in any way that would make any bit of difference for the people in the commonwealth of Kentucky. And that's why what you've seen is a grassroots movement. You've seen the hashtag #120strong. Those are grassroots folks, who have said, "You know what? We don't actually need elected officials to be our spokespeople. We'll speak for ourselves, and we'll organize ourselves, from Appalachian to urban to rural to suburban areas, and we'll descend on and we'll take over our state Capitol. And we'll shut down our public schools until we not only get what we want as far as the public pension, but also making sure that we take care of our kids." How dare we, in the commonwealth of Kentucky, remove funding for textbooks from our budget? On Monday of this week, we removed funding for textbooks from our budget. That is something that is inexcusable, unacceptable, and Kentucky deserves better.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back to Andrea Thomas in Oklahoma. What effect did the West Virginia -- very successful West Virginia strike have on you going out on strike? And also, your concerns about your daughter? She's a junior in high school right now?

ANDREA THOMAS: Yes, I would say the West Virginia strikes were inspiring for us as teachers. I'm in a Facebook group, and there's been a lot of West Virginia teachers pipe in and say, "Stay strong. We've got you. We support you." So, that's nice.

As far as my daughter is concerned, yes, she's a junior in high school. I am very concerned about how we're going to afford to send her to college. It's just so hard, in the environment that we have and in the lack of funding that we have. It's just really hard to make ends meet and to find a way to send your own kid to school.

AMY GOODMAN: Mike Elk --

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