LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Despite an agreement between Jefferson County Public Schools and the Jefferson County Teachers Association to avoid future closures for the rest of this year’s legislative session, Superintendent Marty Pollio is worried that the deal won’t keep the district’s doors open when the General Assembly returns to work Tuesday.
JCPS and JCTA announced the deal Thursday, the second consecutive day that enough teachers called in absences to force the district to close. The agreement will allow schools to send three teachers to Frankfort on a rotating basis, meaning about 500 JCPS teachers would be at the Capitol in each of the four remaining days of the session.
Three surrounding districts in Oldham, Bullitt and Meade Counties also called off classes Thursday due to teacher shortages as several hundred protested against bills they say are harmful to public education at the Capitol.
JCPS Communications Director Renee Murphy said between 30 to 35 percent of the district’s teachers called out Wednesday and Thursday.
Pollio said he’s hopeful that the plan will keep JCPS open next with lawmakers scheduled to meet Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday before breaking for a veto recess, but there’s no guarantee.
“We’re monitoring the situation every day,” Pollio told reporters Friday after an event at Western High School. “I know I sound like a broken record with that, but we’re up at 4 a.m. every morning taking a look at where we are on subs. We really want to have school.”
“So many kids want to be at school,” he added. “This is where they get fed. This is where they have meals. This is where they have teachers, many of them that care about them. At the same time, obviously, we’re very supportive of our teachers.”
Tim Hill – an Academy @ Shawnee teacher and a leader of JCPS Leads, a grassroots group that has given teachers a platform to mobilize – told WDRB News on Thursday that the agreement between JCPS and JCTA is an option but has received a mixed reception among members of JCPS Leads.
That matches what Pollio says he’s heard since announcing the plan.
“I’ve gotten some positive feedback and obviously some I think that still want to go to Frankfort even outside of that, so we’re going to see what happens with it,” Pollio said. “But I think some of the feedback I’ve gotten is at least some appreciation in honoring teachers’ ability to do that where we can still hold school, and that’s really important for us.”
Teachers have opposed a trio of bills and issues that remain in this year’s legislative session. House Bill 525, which would alter the makeup and election of Kentucky Teachers Retirement System trustees, and Senate Bill 250, which would expand the authority of Pollio and his successors over spending and personnel, could receive floor votes as early as Tuesday. Teachers are concerned about SB 250 because the bill would allow the JCPS superintendent to hire principals instead of school-based decision making councils.
The third bill, House Bill 205, has met some resistance in the House. Majority Floor Leader John “Bam” Carney, a Campbellsville Republican and the bill’s sponsor, has said the bill doesn’t have the 60 votes needed to advance tax bills through the House in non-budget sessions.
Still, teachers fear lawmakers negotiating a tax bill in free conference committee could insert scholarship tax credit language in the final product.
House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect, said Thursday that he didn’t see much sentiment for scholarship tax credits among committee members.
“I know there are a couple of people that are interested in that, but there's not been a push for it yet,” he told reporters on the House floor.
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