Dear Commons Community,
Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin railed against teachers protesting outside the state capitol this week, asserting with certainty that their demonstration resulted in children being sexually assaulted, poisoned and injured.
“I guarantee you somewhere in Kentucky today a child was sexually assaulted that was left at home because there was nobody there to watch them,” the Republican politician told reporters Friday evening.
“I guarantee you somewhere today, a child was physically harmed or ingested poison because they were home alone, because a single parent didn’t have enough money to take care of them.”
He added that he knew “for a fact” that “hundreds of thousands” of students were home because schools were closed across the state’s 39 districts so to allow teachers and administrators to protest potential funding cuts.
Hours later, the Republican-dominated legislature overrode the GOP governor’s veto of the state’s two-year operating budget, which includes record new spending for education. As reported by the New York Times:
“With the chants of hundreds of teachers ringing in their ears, Kentucky lawmakers voted on Friday to override the Republican governor’s veto of a two-year state budget that increases public education spending with the help of a more than $480 million tax increase.
The votes came as thousands of teachers rallied at the Capitol, forcing more than 30 school districts to close as the state continued the chorus of teacher protests across the country.
The two-year state operating budget includes record new spending for public education, fueled by a 50-cent increase in the cigarette tax and a 6 percent sales tax on some services, including home and auto repairs. But Gov. Matt Bevin vetoed the budget and revenue bills, calling the latter “sloppy” and “non-transparent.” He said it would not raise enough money to cover the new spending.
The veto put Republican lawmakers in a tough position by asking them to vote a second time on a tax increase in an election year. But 57 House Republicans, later joined by just enough Senate Republicans, voted to override.
“We have to have this revenue to fund our schools,” said Representative Regina Huff, a Republican and middle school special education teacher.
The House voted 57 to 40 to override the veto of the tax increase and 66 to 28 to override the budget veto. Later, without a vote to spare, the Republican-controlled Senate voted 20 to 18 to override the tax increase veto. Senate President Robert Stivers cast the decisive vote for the override.
The Senate later voted 26 to 12 to override the budget veto.
The rallies in Kentucky came amid teacher protests in Oklahoma and Arizona over low education funding and teacher pay. The demonstrations were inspired by West Virginia teachers, whose nine-day walkout after many years without raises led to a 5 percent pay increase.
In Arizona, after weeks of teacher protests and walkout threats across the state, Gov. Doug Ducey promised a net 20 percent raise by 2020.
In Oklahoma, teachers ended two weeks of walkouts on Thursday, shifting their focus to electing pro-education candidates in November. Gov. Mary Fallin signed legislation raising teacher salaries by about $6,000 and providing millions in new education funding, but many say schools need more money.
Kentucky teachers have not asked for a raise. They are instead focused on education funding and a battle over their pensions.”
Congratulations to the teachers and the Kentucky legislators who voted to override.