Dunbar Teachers Walk-In to Protest SB1

Held before school began, the March 14 walk-in did not interfere with the school day for Dunbar students or staff.


Early March 15, public school teachers around the state gathered in freezing cold temperatures to protest ongoing issues with adequate funding for public pensions. At Dunbar, nearly 40 teachers participated, standing along the sidewalk on Man o’ War Blvd in front of the school.

Teachers are protesting Senate Bill 1 (SB1) concerning the retirement benefits and pensions of public servants like teachers.

Last night, Governor Matt Bevin addressed the public on the issue. He claimed that public teachers are making “more than their fair share,” and that Kentucky is “rich” compared to it’s neighboring states.

Teachers took to social media to respond.

“The average teacher salary in Ohio is $6,000 more than KY, in Illinois its $11,000 more, in Virginia it’s $9,000 more, and in Indiana it’s $7,000 more, but I guess Bevin doesn’t know those are our border states too—he only listed TN, MO and WV on his humiliating radio tirade against teachers today,” math teacher Debbie Wilson Waggoner posted on Facebook.

The Governor claims that teachers are not considering the larger issue of balancing the budget; however, three governors–two Democrats and one Republican–neglected to adequately fund the pension fund for years.

Teachers are angry about being asked to take lower pay and fewer benefits in order to balance the deficit.

“We had a walk this morning to protest the state refusing to meet their contractual obligations by finding funding first. We are also protesting budget cuts that directly impact our students,” English teacher Mrs. Amber Faris said.

Teachers claim that instead of filling deficits on the backs of public servants who have already held up their end of the bargain, the legislature should consider other funding sources such as increasing  “sin taxes” on tobacco products.

Instead of attempting compromise, Bevin took to the airwaves to attack public employees.

“This is a group of people that’s throwing a temper tantrum and I’m surprised,” Bevin said. “To me, if they get what they wish for, they won’t have a pension system for the younger people who are still working. And for me, that is remarkably selfish and shortsighted.”

Many teachers feel that Bevin’s comments are nothing more than an either-or fallacy.

“[Bevin] poses the problem of funding the pension as if it has only one answer,” said Dunbar librarian, Mrs. Summer Perry. “In fact there are multiple ways to go about working to amend it.”

Acting House Speaker David Osborne told reporters that the governor’s remarks were “inappropriate” and “show a lack of understanding of the people who are impacting the lives of young people in our state.”

But Bevin continues to publicly state that teachers and other public workers are at fault.

“I’m just flabbergasted by how remarkably uninformed folks are,” Bevin said. “They’re highly educated but very uninformed.”

Another issue at hand is that teachers claim that Governor Bevin incorrectly refers to a COLA as a “pay raise,” which is promised to all workers. Workers who receive social security receive a 2% Cost of Living Adjustments each year. Teachers, who do not receive social security, and who actually prepay the COLAs at 3%, only receive a 1.5% COLA.

Teachers also pay every month toward their pensions–the average pension payment taken directly from teachers’ paychecks is $370 per check, or around $740 per month.

It’s important to note that not only can teachers not draw their own social security, they cannot draw their spouses’ social security, either. They also cannot draw any social security they’ve paid into the system for other work they may do.

This is an issue that teachers do not feel is acknowledged by the public.

“Teachers are not money-grabbers. We didn’t expect to become wealthy through teaching. In fact, many of us live paycheck to paycheck, just like you do. Most teachers I know have a second job where they pay into social security, but will never collect it,” English teacher Ms. Amanda Holt said.

Governor Bevin has seemingly placed himself in opposition against Kentucky’s public school teachers, but he also appears to be antagonizing his own colleagues in the Kentucky legislature as well.

“The fact that our legislators are, in some cases, not willing to make the hard decisions to save people from their own misinformed opinions is crazy,” Bevin said. “They should find a different profession.”

When the election rolls around, if teachers have their way, that might just happen to Bevin.