dr marten boot Educator candidates rally in Frankfort
FRANKFORT They think Frankfort politicians are waging war on public education. Now, they want to fight back.
They are 40 active and retired teachers and administrators who’ve filed to run for the General Assembly this year, and several came to Frankfort Wednesday to make their voices heard.
“I am absolutely opposed to charter schools,” said Jeanie Smith, a Warren County Middle School teacher who is running for the seat of incumbent Republican state Sen. Mike Wilson of Bowling Green. “They undermine the public schools we know and love and trust.”
Matt Anderson, who teaches high school in Whitley County, is a Republican running in a primary against incumbent Republican and fellow Whitley County educator Regina Huff.
Huff stood in the back of the audience that gathered to hear the teachers in the Capitol Rotunda, wondering why her commitment to education is questioned. Huff did not vote for House Bill 520, the charter school bill.
“I just hope people understand I am absolutely steadfast in my support for education and our public schools and our pensions,” Huff said. She said she’s defended teachers and public education, even against comments by Republican Gov. Matt Bevin.
As chair of the Budget Review Subcommittee on Elementary and Secondary Education, Huff said she’s “earned a place at the table where I am a voice for teachers.”
Anderson isn’t the only Republican teacher taking on a Republican incumbent. Travis Brenda, a high school math teacher in Rockcastle County, isn’t just challenging a Republican incumbent, he’s taking on the House Majority Leader Jonathan Shell.
Brenda is concerned about the pension system. He says he thinks state lawmakers no longer listen to the concerns of their constituents and he thinks the pension systems have unwisely invested in hedge funds with large management fees which have helped destabilize them financially.
Shell has said the Republican House continues to work on a pension reform bill which addresses teacher and retiree concerns while shoring up the pension systems for the long term. No bill has publicly emerged, but Shell and other Republican leaders say they are making progress.
Most of the 20 or so on hand Wednesday, however, are Democrats and they see the Republicans who control both chambers of the legislature and the governor’s office as unfriendly or insensitive to the needs of education and teachers.
Lucy Waterbury, Vice President of Legislative Response for Save Our Schools,
a group opposed to charter schools which helped recruit teachers to run for the legislature, says it’s become an outright attack on public schools.
“I am a public school parent and a public school advocate, and I am tired of Kentucky’s war on public education,” Waterbury said, promising to take back the legislature.
Susan Haddix, a retired high school teacher in Madison County, is running against state Sen. Jared Carpenter, R Berea. She said state lawmakers “have lost touch with the real people who live paycheck to paycheck.”
David Allen, a retired educator and public school advocate, said of the 40 educators running for the General Assembly 34 are teachers and six administrators; three classified employees; 23 women and 17 men are running; and there are 33 Democrats and three Republicans.
Several are running in tough districts for challengers and for Democrats, but nonetheless, Allen said, their number represents an historic high water mark for educators seeking office in Kentucky.
Near the end of the rally, Allen asked for questions from the audience. One concerned the personal behavior of some lawmakers who’ve been caught up in sexual harassment charges and other controversies.
“As educators,” said Tina Bojanowski, a Democrat running for the seat held by Republican Phil Moffett of Louisville,
“we’re going to come into the House and expect people to behave as we expect in our classrooms.”