Politics

Teachers from across Kentucky are expected to converge on the state Capitol again Friday as lawmakers return to Frankfort for the final two days of this year’s legislative session.

The Kentucky Education Association — the statewide teachers union — has called for lawmakers to override Gov. Matt Bevin’s vetoes of the two-year state budget and revenue bills, which set aside more funding for public education than Bevin’s proposed budget did.

On Thursday morning, Bevin went on WVLC Radio to criticize the teachers union for opposing his vetoes after teachers packed the Capitol to protest the initial passage of the budget and tax bills.

“I think the KEA is gasping for any sense of relevance and they think if they can whip up some mayhem, then that’s the way to get it done. And it’s a shame,” Bevin said.

“We’re doing this for the people of Kentucky, not for the noisemakers that are imported to create mayhem.”

Lawmakers rushed through the budget and revenue bills in a matter of hours on April 2. The revenue measure included major changes to the state’s tax code that were unveiled just hours before the bills’ final passage.

That day, more than 10,000 teachers gathered into the Capitol to protest, partly in response to changes to the pension system that were rushed through the legislature the week before — hours after the provisions were first revealed in an unannounced committee hearing.

Bevin vetoed the budget, which spends about $600 million more than his proposed spending plan.  He vetoed the tax bill, too, saying it wasn’t “thoughtful or comprehensive” enough.

Lawmakers have the opportunity to override the vetoes on Friday or Saturday, but haven’t indicated whether they will, except to say Bevin’s interpretations of the bills are “misguided.”

Ahead of lawmakers’ return to Frankfort on Friday, more than two dozen school districts across the state have already canceled classes in response to a surge of teachers requesting time off.

A handful of other districts will be open for half of the day or are out for spring break.

The largest school district — Jefferson County Public Schools — announced Thursday afternoon that classes would be canceled Friday “due to more than 2,500 teacher absences.”

Fayette County Public Schools — the second-largest district — has also canceled classes.

Teachers are also upset over cuts to pension benefits for state workers — the biggest cuts will be felt by future teachers, who will be moved out of the conventional pension system.

Most state workers hired since Jan. 1, 2014 already don’t receive pensions. They get “hybrid” cash-balance plans that depend on stock market performance but get a guaranteed 4 percent rate of return on their accounts.

But under the pension bill, future state workers, including teachers, will receive cash-balance plans that have a 0 percent guarantee — meaning they won’t lose money.

The state will contribute more to teachers’ pensions every month because they aren’t eligible for Social Security.

Attorney General Andy Beshear, the Kentucky Education Association and the Kentucky Fraternal Order of Police filed a lawsuit against Bevin on Wednesday, seeking to block the pension bill.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.