Politics

Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration says 1,074 Kentucky teachers broke the law by calling in sick to protest at the state legislature this year and that the educators are eligible to be fined $1,000 each for every day missed.

A release from Kentucky Labor Cabinet Secretary David Dickerson says that teachers won’t be fined this time, but that they might be in the future.

“Let it be clearly understood that the grace extended in this instance will not be extended for future such proven violations,” Dickerson said in a statement.

“The public cannot tolerate another illegal work stoppage in our schools. It is important for public school teachers to understand the level of seriousness that, by law, the Labor Cabinet must and will give to any future work stoppages.”

Thousands of teachers descended on Frankfort during Kentucky’s legislative session to protest bills dealing with private school scholarship tax credits and the makeup of the board that governs Kentucky’s teacher pension system.

Schools across the state closed as a result of a mass “sickout,” where teachers called in sick to protest. Louisville’s public school system shut down for six days over a two-week period.

Kentucky’s Labor Cabinet obtained attendance records that could show which school employees called in sick, arguing that teachers broke state law that prohibits public employees from striking.

Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear has sued the cabinet for the investigation and called on Gov. Matt Bevin to fire Cabinet Secretary Dickerson for pursuing it.

Beshear is running against Bevin in this year’s race for governor.

Bevin has repeatedly criticized the protests, at one point blaming the shooting of a Louisville child on teachers who didn’t show up to work.

Bevin also claimed in April 2018 that a teacher protests during the 2018 legislative session led to children being sexually assaulted or ingesting poison while left unsupervised.

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