Adam Beam / AP
On Thursday morning, SB 151 was a bill on wastewater services.
But by the time both chambers of the Kentucky Legislature had passed it that night, the change process had turned the bill on sewage into a 291-page overhaul of public employees' pension benefits. Now it rests on the desk of Governor Matt Bevin, waiting for his signature – and teachers across the country are angry.
Even before the State Senate passed the bill on Thursday night, teachers and other school staff on the Capitol in Frankfort landed signs and Belting chants in protest against the rapidly moving legislation. More protesters arrived in the capital on Friday and thousands of others called for work – so many that the schools left their classrooms in about two dozen districts.
"This was a difficult evening for all of us in education," Madison County Public Schools, one of the state's largest districts, said on Facebook Thursday night. "We share a passion for our students and for their future, which is unmatched and unshakable, and tonight we must balance that passion with the need to show solidarity with others in our profession in this state."
Then on everyone's lips The post announced that Friday would be "NO SCHOOL".
It concerns in particular the pensions of civil servants. Ryland Barton of Kentucky Public Radio has broken through some of the key changes included in the bill. You can find this summary in the text insert below or read the bill for yourself.
Kentucky Public Radio declares:
"New teachers would instead receive cash-balance plans that would create employee and state pension contributions and guarantee that the plans would not lose money in a stock market crash.
"The bill would also limit the level of sick leave that teachers could apply for retirement by 31 December 2018.
"State workers hired since January 1, 2014, are already receiving a cash plan, but will not receive a guaranteed return of 4 percent on their retirement.
" The bill would require civil servants to pay between 1 and 2 years. July 2003 and September 1st. 2008 to contribute 1 percent of their salaries to pay for the health of retirees.
"The bill would also require that the state introduce massive infusions into the pension plans over the next 30 years." This year, legislators have already proposed 3.3 billion in th The systems – about 15 percent of the two-year state budget. " Republicans who passed the bill on a party line see the changes as a difficult but necessary attempt to address the government's estimated $ 41 billion deficit to pay retirement pensions over the next three decades. The sponsor of the bill claimed that it will save Kentucky about $ 300 million in this range – a small fraction of the deficit faced by the state.
But even this estimate remains in question. The bill was passed before a standard actuarial review to see how much, if any, money would save the state.
Kentucky's Democratic Attorney General, Andy Beshear, called this skipped move one of the reasons sue when Bevin signs the bill.
"Yesterday night, we saw the government in its worst form, when the leadership of the House of Representatives and the Senate in the dark of night changed what was supposed to be a wastewater bill in what they claim is pension reform," Beshear said in a video statement posted on Twitter on Friday. "They put a 291-page bill before the legislators and got them to vote on it without reading it."
Dee Anna Albright, a fifth-grade social worker, frankly explained the matter.
"We're terribly upset," Albright told the Lexington Herald Leader, protesters around them shouting, "We've had enough." "Our government is poorly managed and badly informed."
Albright and her protesters in Kentucky are not the only teachers who have come into a fight with their government. Just weeks after a protracted stalemate between legislators and educators in West Virginia – which ended with educators receiving a 5 percent salary increase – similar disputes in Oklahoma and Arizona are in full swing.
The Oklahoma Education Association and the Oklahoma Public Employees Association have next week a strike pledged wage increases and higher government revenues.
GOP State Rep. John "Bam" Carney, a teacher himself, made it clear in a passionate speech from the floor that he was not impressed by the protests.
"We had grandchildren from members of this body come home from public schools crying because teachers talk about their grandparents during school hours," he cried. "I say, do your job, do not talk about politics, and teach the kids!"
Bevin, in turn, has signaled that he intends to sign the bill despite the protests.
"Tonight, 49 members of the Kentucky House and 22 members of the Kentucky Senate voted not to take the pension problem off the streets," Bevin tweeted after the Bill Thursday night was passed. "Those who receive a pension check in the years to come are deeply grateful to these 71 men and women who have done the right thing."