The Kentucky legislature — and Gov. Matt Bevin — messed with the wrong people.
Thousands of Kentucky teachers spent their spring break in the lovely tropical destination of Frankfort to rally against the newly passed pension bill and for better education funding.
The bill, SB 151, was passed through the House and Senate quickly and quietly on Thursday, March 29, infuriating educators who thought the battle was, at least temporarily, over.
Monday’s rally was not the first teacher rally of the year, nor the last. In addition to teachers in Kentucky, teachers in Oklahoma, West Virginia and Arizona have walked out or rallied for education funding. West Virginia teachers went on a statewide strike for almost two weeks in order to receive a 5-percent pay raise (West Virginia teachers’ salaries were ranked 47th out of the 50 states).
While Gov. Bevin might think teachers are just selfish and short-sighted, I believe I can speak for just about everyone in the entire world when I say that in order to be a teacher, you need to be exactly the opposite.
Teachers do everything they can, including take a major pay cut, to help form a student’s decisions and opinions. Teachers spend every day with students who could not care less about them, encouraging them in their studies and forcing them to think outside the box. They understand the long-term effects of what they are doing, and they push every student to be better.
And what do they get in return? A bad retirement and complaints from a lawmaker who homeschools his own children and has no real experience with the state’s education system. But, I digress.
Maybe teachers who had a lasting impact on me do deserve to have the legislature sneak a bill that could ruin their retirement plans before educators had the time to say anything. Maybe future educators that sit in class and go out to eat with me deserve to get paid a significant amount less than those in comparable jobs with less requirements.
While these rallies may not have an immediate impact on lawmakers, the opinion throughout the country has already shifted. Those previously unaware now understand just how low teacher pay is across the country, and many are seeking out ways to improve teachers’ conditions. I do not expect that Kentucky’s rallies will suddenly encourage Bevin or the senators and house members that voted in favor to change their stances, but as many of the rally-goers’ signs say, it might change the voters’ stances come election time.
As I’ve been told too many times to count, the people’s power to vote, either for or against a person or thing, is the most effective way to make a change in the United States. I was taught that by a teacher — as I’m sure several other Kentucky voters were, as well.
Taylor Weiter is a senior from Louisville, Kentucky, graduating with a degree in journalism and a minor in political science. Weiter is also the former editor-in-chief of The Eastern Progress and is a regular contributor.