Teachers having a huge impact on debate over pension reform in Frankfort

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- Hundreds of teachers from eastern Kentucky were out of the classroom, Wednesday, but not because of the winter storm. They traveled to Frankfort to send a message to lawmakers.

With the 2018 session of the general winding down, teachers kept up the pressure, holding a rally at the Capitol to oppose the pension plan and support more funding for public education.

The air was cold, but the intensity hot as teachers defied the elements to demonstrate their resolve.

“This is not a teacher fight. This is public education fight,” said Laura Cawood, a first grade teacher from Bell Co. “This is fight for our children, a fight for our future.”

Cawood was among a group of teachers that drove from Bell Co., one several school districts in eastern Kentucky that closed to allow teachers to attend.

“Our district did dismiss to allow teachers to come. And then with the weather, we had a lot of other surrounding schools that were closed as well,” said Cawood.

The event attracted several Democratic leaders, who urged the crowd to send to pressure lawmakers not to resurrect the stalled pension reform bill, Senate bill 1.

“If they pass Senate Bill 1, I know you will see them in the ballot box, and I see them in court,” said Attorney General Andy Beshear, who has called the pension bill unconstitutional.

Teachers have been ever-present at the Capitol for weeks, holding rallies, lining hallways and crowding meetings. Lawmakers on both sides agree they have had a huge impact.

“It's a necessary piece of legislation but, frankly, their concerns have over-weighed those financial realities, and caused people to oppose the legislation at this point,” said Sen. Christian McDaniel (R-Taylor Mill) the chairman of the Senate budget committee.

“I think teachers, in my opinion, have changed the whole debate,” said Rep. Rocky Adkins, the House Minority Leader. “I think they have been responsible for creating the energy on the ground and in the trenches that basically have killed Senate Bill 1.”

And with just a few days left in the session, teachers attending the rally said they are not going away.

“Teacher impact is really making a difference, so we're going to keep coming,” said middle school teacher Kayla Johnson.

For now, Senate bill 1 remains in committee with no apparent plan to revive it.

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