Kentucky Teachers’ Walkout Catalyzes More Advocacy
(OurFuture.org) Headlines about teachers’ strikes may have moved on from Kentucky and Oklahoma to Arizona and Colorado, but the uprisings these wildcat teachers started have not, according to numerous sources I’ve spoken with in Louisville – Kentucky’s largest school district, with over 100,000 students.
Kentucky is where teachers staged widespread “sick-outs” to protest state lawmakers’ handling of pension reform and school funding. After teachers won record new spending for public education in the state and then pushed legislators to override the governor’s veto of the bill, there were still plenty of vows from teachers to “keep fighting” for a permanent pension fix and more new revenue sources for schools. But will they?
A Wake-up Call
“The pension fight woke everyone up,” says Tiffany Dunn, a National Board Certified middle school English as a second language teacher, who has helped found and lead a number of grassroots teacher advocacy groups including Save Our Schools Kentucky.
“Before that, hardly anyone knew or cared” about a range of issues Dunn sees as new targets for teacher activism, including the state governor’s recent actions to stack the state education board with new appointees and a new leader who are charter school advocates. “Most teachers thought [these issues were] just a JCPS thing,” she says, referring to Jefferson County Public Schools, which includes Louisville and the surrounding county. But now she sees that teachers who first engaged on the pension issue are turning their attention to “all the issues.”
Recent actions state lawmakers have taken, including passing new legislation to bring charter schools to the state, “could have been stopped if we had the current level of activism,” Dunn believes. “But now at least people are aware.”