#WearRedForEd with Florida Educators

Our union sisters and brothers are standing up for the rights of their students in their state capital Monday, January 13th. Show your support for our fellow educators by WEARING RED on Monday, January 13th!

Teachers from across the Sunshine State will descend upon their Capitol to demand more funding for education from the Republican-lead legislature. Educators are asking for an increase in funding for resources and programs, as well as an increase in salary.

Educators in one Florida county were already frightened with a notice of possible termination for their use of personal days to advocate for their students.

Don’t forget to wear red in support of our union fellows. Snap a picture and use the hashtag #WearRedForEd #TakeOnTallahassee #FundOurFutureFL

Here comes session!

Emilie McKiernan Blanton

There are 99 days until Sine Die. The 2020 General Assembly is underway today. We will be watching as the legislature crafts the biennial budget. This session will be 60 days and there are hundreds of pre-filed bills. As educators, we have watched the previous sessions closely. The last two sessions brought out a fire and passion in educators as we fought for our students. In the coming days, we will be following a multitude of bills to ensure our students have the opportunity for a free, public education in the most equitable way possible.

While we watch for bills related to education, we already know some of our non-negotiables. We refuse to accept vouchers. Whether they come in the front door or the back door, we are saying no to vouchers. No matter what pretty words anyone uses to try to hide what they are, we are saying no to vouchers. We don’t want funding for charter schools. In fact, we want to repeal the charter school legislation passed in 2017. We want the promise of our pensions protected and funded. We want new revenue. We want our students safe, healthy, and given the best opportunities for success in life. Our students are at the heart of everything we do and they are the reason we fight.

Going into session, we have a governor who is willing to work with legislators. While Republicans do hold a veto-proof supermajority, they have not had a governor willing to work with them for the last four years. There were times Bevin couldn’t even work with members of his own party. Governor Andy Beshear has promised to work for Kentucky. We are all on Team Kentucky and that means we have to work together.

What can you do while we watch session?

Follow updates from Kentucky Educators Association and Jefferson County Teachers Association on social media.

KEA Twitter

JCTA Twitter

KEA Facebook

JCTA Facebook

Also keep an eye out for email updates from our union.

Program the Legislative Message Line phone number into your phone. The number is 1-800-372-7181. Keep messages short and to the point. The operators are very nice!

Contact your legislators at their offices. If you don’t know who your legislators are, check here. For tips about contacting an elected official, check our previous post from Lousville Metro Councilwoman Nicole George.

Keep up with bills using the Legislative Research Commission page here.

We have long days ahead of us. We need to stay active and informed. We will have a page to track bills as bill numbers become available. Stay tuned!

Special Election: January 14

Voters in Jefferson and Bullitt Counties, there’s a special election for Senate District 38 this month!  Senator Dan Seum has retired, leaving an open seat in the Kentucky General Assembly. We have a rare opportunity to pick up a seat in the senate with a candidate who will be a reliable vote for public education.  Andrew Bailey is a former JCPS teacher who is committed to making public school funding a priority.  

If you are a registered voter in this district, go to the Voter Information Center on the State Board of Elections Website to find your polling place and VOTE on January 14!  

The Census is our next big fight

Emilie McKiernan Blanton

Over the last several years, educators in Kentucky have shown that we are a force to be reckoned with. We have helped shape the current political landscape of our commonwealth. We were successful in electing a pro-public education governor in Andy Beshear and an educator as his running mate in Jacqueline Coleman. We have shown that we can and will show up when it counts and that we can move mountains when we do.

We have several big fights in the near future. From the national scene, we have people from across the country telling us to focus on Ditching Mitch. While elections are important and we need to always focus on electing pro-public education people, we have another daunting task before us: The 2020 census.

As an educator, you might be asking why this matters. The census is not a candidate and on the surface it might not seem attached to education at all. It’s just counting right? No. This is how we get our funding. The next time we’ll be able to count everyone will be in 2030, so it’s important that we get everyone counted correctly. In the 2010 census, approximately one million children under the age of five were not counted. This equates to valuable resources that are not funded properly.

You might be saying “But we do a count every year at my school!” It doesn’t matter. The funding for the resources are allocated based on the census that is every ten years. We have to get it right or we’ll be even more underfunded.

It doesn’t just affect our school funding. As educators, we know that support services that promote better, healthier lives for our children are integral in educational and life outcomes. The census helps determine the distribution of funds for health services, housing, local infrastructure needs and so much more. The census is also used to determine our national representation. The erasure of people from the census can result in lost seats in Congress. 

So why teachers? We have access to entire families and communities through our students. We can send information home to help educate everyone to know what to expect and when to expect it. There are campaigns and elections through 2020, but the census can be a bipartisan effort where we come together. The census is a powerful tool that helps shape our entire nation. It’s important for all of Kentucky to be counted appropriately so that we can have the best chance for a brighter future for our state. 

Here at VOTE, we have a page dedicated to the 2020 census.

What to Get Teachers This Holiday Season 

Tammy Berlin

The holiday shopping season is in full swing.  As you rush around selecting just the right gift for all the people in your life, don’t forget your teachers.  Whether you’re a principal, a district administrator, a legislator, a parent, or a student, here’s what you can get the teachers on your list.  

From Principals:  

  • Protect our time.  Yes, there may be a vacant sub position (or two, or three, or more), but we really need our planning period to prepare for our students.  Please do absolutely everything you can to find another way to cover those classes. Also, we need our time before and after school for the same reason, so please keep those faculty meetings to an absolute minimum.  We promise we’ll read your emails if you use them to communicate information that you would normally share in a faculty meeting. We’ll appreciate the extra time.  
  • Make us feel supported when we have to manage student behavior.  Trust that we’ve already tried every reasonable and necessary intervention before we ask for your help in dealing with that problematic student behavior, and know that if we’ve called on you for help it really is urgent.  The rest of our students are patiently waiting on your assistance, so that we can get back to teaching them.  
  • Involve us in collaborative decision-making.  We are the people who actually have to implement every local policy at our school, so it only makes sense to have a say in developing those policies.  Real collaborative decision making means that we are involved in every step of the decision making process, from identifying what problems our school needs to address, to considering and evaluating all of the possible solutions, and choosing the best solution for our school.  It does NOT mean imposing external mandates from the District on us or identifying problems and developing solutions by yourself, then asking us for our “feedback” on the decisions you’ve basically already made.  

From District Leadership:  

  • Please refrain from issuing top-down directives to our administrators.  We need local autonomy. We know every student by name and care for them as our own.  Please trust us to know what to do and how to make the best decisions for our schools.  
  • Give us the resources that we need.  Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy books, art supplies, and everything else we need to make learning fun, engaging, and meaningful to our students.  Making sure that we have what we need to teach is the most important thing you can do to make JCPS better for us all.

From Legislators:  

  • We need a raise.  We work really hard, we spend our own money on our students, and we are highly trained professionals who deserve to be paid accordingly.  And don’t forget our support staff: classroom assistants, bus drivers, secretaries, janitors, and everyone else that makes school happen on a day to day basis.  Those folks are angels on earth, and we’d be lost without them.  
  • Protect our benefits.  For the work we do every day, our salaries are a real bargain.  Please make sure that our insurance and pensions are there to take care of us.  We just want to teach our kids. Please don’t make us come to Frankfort to fight for our benefits.  

From Parents:  

  • Thank you for allowing us to teach your children.  We love them almost as much as you do, and just like you, we only want the best for them.  We’re on the same team. Please trust and affirm our decisions, and on those occasions when we have to contact you about your child’s behavior, please be supportive and present a united front with us.  Your child’s academic efforts and behavior are both so much better when they see that we all have the same expectations.  

From Students:  

  • You’re the reason why we get up every morning and do what we do.  We care about you and want the absolute best future for you. All we want in return is for you to always give us your very best effort and cooperation.  

Go Away, Bevin

Emilie McKiernan Blanton

Matt Bevin is exactly who teachers have always said he was. He’s careless, disgusting, selfish, and hateful. When confronted with facts, he has clung to fantasy and half-truths. You are either completely in agreement with every word he says or you are against him. The Bevin years will go down as a dark time in Kentucky’s history. We thought the time had closed, but like the graceless monster that he is, he grasps for malevolent relevance. 

The pardons have been jarring and incomprehensible. The sheer volume of pardons made for a slow trickle of information released about the killers and rapists released. A woman beheaded and stuffed in a barrel. A child sexually assaulted so brutally, he almost died from internal injuries. More than one pardon excused the crime of infanticide. As opposition to Andy Beshear maligned him as a “baby killer,” Bevin was forgiving actual baby killers. People with money and connections to Bevin have their heinous crimes erased as the common folk of Kentucky are left reeling.

During the 2018 sickouts, Bevin accused teachers of causing the sexual assault of children. Standing outside the Capitol, Bevin declared “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.” He clung to the notion that we had caused harm to children in this disgusting, traumatizing way. 

In an interview with Terry Meiners on WHAS840, Bevin stooped even lower. One pardon involved a man who repeatedly raped a young girl from ages 9 to 12. The survivor of his horrific crimes is now a 16 year old high school student. The criminal was supposed to serve a 23 year prison term and was instead released after 18 months. As her mother succinctly and tragically pointed out, he spent less time in prison than he spent raping her child. 

In the WHAS interview, Meiners asked about the child rapist and Bevin had to ask which one. He then went on to state, in a grotesque and graphic manner, that the girl had made the entire ordeal up. 

Matt Bevin has never hidden who he was. He has always been the brash, spiteful man some in our state are waking up to. His pardons in particular show a disdain and negligence for women and children. It is no wonder that he chose to aim at teachers, a profession dominated by women. He doesn’t think we are worthy of his time and he doesn’t care what happens to us.

We have a chance to move on and work together to create a brighter Kentucky. We have the opportunity to move past hateful rhetoric and work together to fix the mess Matt Bevin has made. Thousands of Kentuckians voted for Bevin in November. Thankfully more voted for Andy Beshear, a man who treats the women around him as equals and has put the children of Kentucky first every step of the way. It’s time for Bevin to step out of the spotlight and leave our commonwealth alone.

The Illusion of Scholarship Tax Credits

Don Bacon

In February 2019,  House Bill 205 was introduced in Kentucky, a bill which was written to establish scholarship tax credits.  If it were to become law, this would allow for donations to be provided to scholarship organizations which grant tuition assistance to families wishing for their students to attend private K-12 schools.  The donors to the scholarship organizations would receive a tax deduction from the state.

Scholarship tax credits and school choice are the jargon of private and charter school advocates.  Calling them scholarship tax credits is much more attractive than their actuality. Truthfully, they are a loophole around school voucher initiatives, which do not garner as much public support.  School choice is code for options to send fewer students to public school and for public dollars to go to private schools.  

Scholarship tax credits create a myriad of issues behind the facade of better options for parents and families.

The Support Education Excellence in Kentucky (SEEK) funding program uses a formula to calculate the amount of dollars each school district receives based on the number of students enrolled and in attendance.  Base SEEK funding provides $4,000 dollars per student, with extra funds for at-risk students. While this is the largest amount of money per student ever spent in Kentucky, it falls below previous levels when adjusted for inflation.  

If public schools were to receive less funding due to a significant number of students choosing to attend private schools using scholarships, difficult choices would have to be made on how public schools would continue.  These could be increases to student to teacher ratios, the discontinuing of some courses, and the reduction of support staff for a school. The written law necessities for a school do not always match with the reality of what each school needs.  Many schools are desperate for smaller class sizes and more mental health counselors, which would be nearly impossible to achieve with a smaller budget.  

The loss from SEEK funding would be compounded with the cuts education in Kentucky dealt with in 2018.  The Kentucky Teacher Internship Program, money for textbooks and instructional materials,, and funds for teacher professional development were all eliminated.  A large reason teachers protested HB 205 in February was because schools in Kentucky are already underfunded and a scholarship tax credit plan would exacerbate the problem.

Public school educators are aware of the diverse needs of learners and support creative educational solutions for all students.  Scholarship tax credits and school choice initiatives ignore the fact that public schools are for all students with every variety of educational need, background, and difference.  Our society should be cautious about giving up infrastructure in our communities. Scholarship tax credits rely on the benevolence of groups and individuals who would rather fund private institutions, which are not held publicly accountable, rather than public institutions which serve everyone.  

A Message for Our Members: We need your help to improve student behavior in JCPS

Tammy Berlin

A Message for Our Members:  We need your help to improve student behavior in JCPS 

During our October and November Rep Council meetings, we had in-depth conversations with our building reps about how student misbehavior is handled in JCPS schools.  These conversations, as well as the data from last May’s Student Discipline survey, have revealed that a significant number of JCTA members either a) have been directed by their administrators to write fewer or less severely worded student behavior referrals, or b) are under the impression that their administrators have been directed by their superiors to use whatever means necessary at their building level to reduce and eliminate the number of discipline referrals and subsequent suspensions.  This is a serious problem that destroys building climate, employee and student morale, and public trust in our District. JCTA needs your help to solve it.  

Know Your Rights

Article 7 of our contract talks about the responsibilities of employees and the District regarding student discipline.  Section A says that the employees and the District agree to “effectively carry out” the Student Support and Behavior Intervention Handbook (SSBIH) and the Student Bill of Rights as adopted by the District.  That means that you as a teacher have the responsibility of using adequate and appropriate classroom management techniques to maintain an environment conducive to learning.  In return, you have the right to expect that your building administrator will adhere to the administrator responsibilities in the SSBIH, including supporting you in implementing behavior interventions, accurately recording inappropriate student behavior and disciplinary responses following the protocols established in the SSBIH, and following procedures for student removals from the learning environment.  Furthermore, Article 7 states that the District “shall strive to provide a learning environment that is safe and free from interruptions by disruptive students”, and it specifically guarantees you the right to temporarily remove a disruptive student from the classroom. If your administrator is not following the provisions outlined in the SSBIH and the Student Bill of Rights you have the right to grieve. This right is guaranteed you in Section C of Article 7 of our contract.  

What to Do When a Directive Conflicts with Your Rights

Simply put, call your UniServ Director at the JCTA office at (502) 454-3400.

JCTA is your best source for resolving problems with the District and with your administrators. Although there are occasionally situations where a dispute with the District is a perpetual struggle, in most cases we can enforce the provisions of our contract, but only if you tell us when your rights are being violated and by whom.  If you’ve been directed to refrain from writing referrals or calling your school’s Student Response Team, if you’ve been directed to use less-severe language than indicated as appropriate by the SSBIH, if your administrator has not supported you in implementing behavior interventions, if they have not followed procedures for student removals from the learning environment, or if they are in general not supporting your efforts to maintain a classroom environment conducive to learning, you need to communicate that to your UniServ Director.  

Often your UniServ Director can solve the issue through normal communication channels, but occasionally it may be necessary to use the grievance process in the contract to resolve a dispute.  A grievance is a normal and necessary process through which the Association files a formal written complaint against the employer outlining specific ways in which the employer has failed to uphold their end of the contract.  It is a right afforded to you in our contract to ensure that your employer treats you fairly and follows the rules. Don’t be afraid to use this procedure when you need to in order to protect your rights.  

Can You Get in Trouble if You Ask JCTA to Help?

The short answer is NO.  In many cases, the Association can talk to the district about your school’s issues without using your name.  Your communications with JCTA are confidential and the Association will never use your name without your permission. 

If it is necessary to use your name, JCTA will only do so with your permission and our contract protects you from retaliation if you work through JCTA to resolve your problems.  Article 5 of our contract says, “Employees and administrators shall be treated in a professional manner at all times.” Article 9, which talks about disciplinary action against employees, protects you against being disciplined by your administrator unless there is just cause.  Just cause means that the District has to follow proper procedures in investigating whether or not you willingly violated a rule or regulation that you should have reasonably been expected to be aware of, and that employee discipline can only occur if there is substantial proof that you are guilty.  Just cause protections apply to every member who is tenured. 

For those who aren’t tenured yet, JCTA can often engage without using your name and any identifying information in discussions with the District.  When that is not possible, your UniServ Director can help you explore the options available to you and can often help find other ways to solve your problem.  For example, there may be tenured teachers with the same issue who are willing to take the lead on the issue. 

Because our contract assures you the right to expect that your administrator will fulfill their obligations to support you in maintaining a classroom environment that is safe and conducive to learning, and because the grievance procedure is the mechanism through which JCTA holds administrators accountable for following the rules, your administrator cannot discipline you or otherwise retaliate against you for exercising your contractual rights to seek help from the Association.  Most principals are responsive when UniServ Directors work through their channels at the District to solve problems like these, but in the few cases where they have not been, we have seen administrators reprimanded, reassigned, removed, and even retired for not upholding their end of the contract.  

Let’s Work Together to Improve Student Behavior

If teachers in your building are finding that administration is not supporting their efforts to manage student behavior as outlined in the SSBIH, call the JCTA office and explain the situation to your UniServ Director right away.  Your UniServ Director will guide you in the best way to protect your rights and hold your administrators accountable.  

Alternative School Blues and Lies

Kumar Rashad

Rodney is a false name for an actual student of mine or should I say a former student.  He had been placed at Breckinridge Metropolitan High School in the fall semester for a fight at another school in which a teacher intervened and was struck unintentionally by the two young men who were fighting.  Breckinridge Metropolitan High School or Breck Metro is an alternative school in the district whose majority population are students who have gotten into legal troubles.

When Rodney enters Breck Metro, he is told that if he is present 80% of the time (4 days a week), gets less than 10 referrals while he is in school, and makes no worse than 1 U in his subject grades, he will be allowed to return to a “regular” school.  

Rodney is a quiet gentleman but no one crosses him out of respect and most people like him.  He gets straight A’s the entire first semester. Rodney does not get one single referral and is well past the 80% attendance threshold.  He does everything right and has a golden smile that could carry him along way in this world.

He has every right to smile since he knows he will be getting out of Breck Metro after the winter break.  Why shouldn’t he? Every third Friday, Breck has an incentive party for those who have good attendance and behavior.  Rodney never missed one and is applauded by all of his teachers for his character and hard work.

The day before Christmas break, the principal calls him into the office.  I tell Rodney good luck in his future because I expect him to be in transition to his new school.  When Rodney returns to my class, he looks like his best friend died and his golden smile is now a frown.  When asked why, he tells me that the principal told him that the “Board” would not dismiss him from our school and he would have to finish the entire year at Breck. 

Rodney is heart-broken and I try to console him but I have no words because I can’t understand how a guy like Rodney is denied.  Who on the “Board” denied him?

Christmas break roles by and the first day of the Spring semester I am waiting for Rodney to come in my class so we can have one of those conversations we always have about music and life.  Unfortunately, Rodney does not show up to my class. Instead, he gets into a fight with another student who teases him about not being able to leave.

Rodney is suspended and after that event, I may have seen Rodney a total of 3 times since then.  He dropped out of school and contributes to the statistics that plague many of our Black males in public education.  I blame JCPS and especially the “Board” who consistently deny our black males the opportunity they deserve.

Renee Murphy in an article from the Courier Journal says that the alternative task force who is assigned to determine policies for alternative schools said that the task force did not address the entrance and exit requirements for students in alternative schools because the bulk of their work addressed issues that would indirectly affect the exit policies.  This is a load of garbage because the district should use all of its resources to help our students instead of using empty language and outdated policies to ruin the lives of our most vulnerable.  

I miss Rodney so much and have tried to reach out to him with no avail but it didn’t have to happen if we had a “Board” that cared about our kids and treated the vulnerable as if they were special.  All our kids want is love and my love for Rodney and others like him have made me hate what WE (JCPS and the “Board”) did to the many Rodneys that are in my school today. Stop lying to my kids JCPS.  That’s not racial equity. It’s simply cruelty and bullying. Put that in your Backpack!

The People’s Inauguration

Emilie McKiernan Blanton

We remembered in November and educators were front and center at the Inauguration of Governor Andy Beshear and Lt Governor Jacqueline Coleman. Educators were granted access with special badges for the day as we led the Inaugural Parade and sat in special seats at the Inauguration. December 10th was truly the start of a new day in Kentucky.

After years of insults, attacks, and obfuscation, all Kentuckians were welcomed to join in the celebration as Andy took his oath of office. Being among the crowd of educators and supporters is a thrill I will never forget. My children spent months helping with the campaign and were able to spend time in Frankfort watching educators and Kentucky be celebrated by our chosen governor.

There was an extraordinary sense of camaraderie among the sea of red as we moved through the streets. There were hugs and cheers as we celebrated. Some of us have only known each other through social media posts and seeing each other in person was like old friends reuniting. It has been a long, hard-fought battle that has ignited a passion for activism across the state. In between events, educators were able to gather in the home of our union at the Kentucky Educators Association building. Educators from across the state shared food and laughs in between the parade and the Inauguration. In the home of our union, there was no rural-urban divide. We were all educators together celebrating a new day in Kentucky, regardless of our zipcode. 

It was stunning to be loud and proud as we celebrated in Frankfort instead of descending on Frankfort to fight. As we move into these four years with Andy Beshear at the helm of our state, we have to remember that we can always be loud and proud. We have found our voice and it’s important that we keep that voice. We worked so hard to help shape our democracy, but that fight doesn’t end when we win the election. The work is just now getting started. 

We have an amazing voice and advocate in our Capitol and it’s important that we follow his lead. We have to believe that Andy will do what is best for us and work to ensure that all students have an equitable, public education in our state. Andy and Jacqueline are the voices that we want to lead us and we need to give them the opportunity to move our state in the right direction.

We need to take the energy and enthusiasm we gained over the last few years and continue to work. We have to keep talking with elected officials. We have to keep talking to neighbors, family, and the public about the needs of our students and our profession. The connections we’ve made across the state during this fight will be invaluable. Regardless of where we live, we are all working for the future of Kentucky which sits in our classrooms. There has been a slow, deliberate attempt to dismantle public education. The fixes that we need to help our students won’t happen overnight, but it’s important that we continue to move in the right direction. That takes all of us staying engaged and informed as we work with our new governor.