Schools were closed in many Kentucky counties on Friday, March 30, because of too many Teachers calling in sick. This “sickout” occurred in protest of the passage of Senate Bill 151. The bill, originally concerning sewer regulations, was amended to include Pension Reform.

Hasty response to a complicated problem

Kentucky has been facing a pension crisis for quite some time. Governor Matt Bevin made it clear he aimed to address the pension system when he was first elected, but previous attempts to do so have been unsuccessful. This is due, in part, to an enormous opposition from the Kentucky Democrats and the public.

SB-151 took Kentuckians by surprise. Teachers rushed to the Capitol to protest Thursday afternoon, but at 10:15 PM, the 291-page bill passed in both the house and the Senate. Not a single Democrat voted ‘yes’ on its passage.

Governor Bevin is expected to sign the bill into law and praised the legislators who passed it. Opponents of the bill criticize its of a lack of actuary analysis and the hasty manner in which it was passed. Suggested alternatives to the bill include marijuana legalization and opening casinos, which proponents say would boost the state's economy and fund the pension program. Critics also say the bill will offer fewer benefits to deserving teachers, replacing traditional pensions with a cash-balance plan.

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear made it clear in a statement that he intended to sue and called the bill’s passage “governing at its worst.”

Kentucky teachers protesting in a manner similar to West Virginia teachers

Teachers began calling in sick in protest on the evening of March 29th, around the time the bill was passed.

There were not enough substitutes to respond to the high-volume of call-ins, so schools in more than twenty counties were closed. This protest adds to a growing amount of protests involving education. It is similar to the one that occurred in West Virginia in February and lasted for nine days, resulting in increased wages for teachers.

It’s unclear if this protest will lead to a win for Kentucky teachers.

The public is certainly showing support for the teachers. There has been an outpouring of support for educators on social media. Words of encouragement, profile picture changes and personal essays penned by teachers themselves have flooded Facebook. Kentucky businesses are offering teachers discounts. #Pension trended on Twitter Friday afternoon.

It is unclear how long teachers will be protesting with their absence. However, they have not entirely shunned the call of duty. In several counties, teachers distributed food to make sure children who may rely on school meals didn't go hungry. Even in the midst of a protest, Kentucky teachers are still taking care of those they are entrusted to educate.