Fayette County Public Schools closed Thursday; teachers group calls for 'sick out'

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Fayette County Public Schools is closed Thursday.

MGN Online

School Spokesperson Lisa Deffendall says that roughly 40 percent of school employees have reported they will not be at school tomorrow.

Deffendall says that leaves the district without enough substitutes to cover all the absences.

As a result, all Fayette County Public Schools will be closed on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019.

Jefferson County Public Schools and Madison County Schools will also be closed Thursday, both because of a large number of staff absences.

The group, KY 120 United is urging teachers to call in sick. The group is not affiliated with teachers unions in the state.

Here's part of a letter from them Gray affiliate WAVE3 obtained:

We need to take bold action to protect a board process and nominating procedure that has worked for the last 78 years... Please ask employees in every worksite to call in sick tomorrow. We need districts to shut down as early as possible this evening.

You can read the full letter here.

That letter mentioned House Bill 525 specifically. It would change the nomination process for the Teachers' Retirement System trustee board.

On Twitter, KY 120 United wrote, "If you think this is about a pension board, you haven't been paying attention."

WKYT reached out to the cofounder of KY 120 United for a statement. Nema Brewer told us the following:

"We aren’t commenting tonight except to say that if you all think this is about one bill regarding a pension board, you haven’t been paying attention.
"We will talk tomorrow. 
"#120Strong"

Rep. Ken Upchurch, R-Monticello, filed the bill in the House on Feb. 20. It was moved to a committee the next day. The bill is on the agenda for Thursday at noon.

Rep. Upchurch released the following statement:

“I have been told that teachers in at least two of our largest school districts are planning a ‘sick out’ to protest the preliminary version of legislation that seeks to give educators more say in their own retirement.
"It is staggering that people would strike so early in the process and more astonishing that the organization that says they represent teachers’ best interests has called for it. We have been working for more than a week on a committee substitute that will not only increase the say teachers have – particularly those with JCTA - but also the voice of retired educators. Despite this, I am hopeful that we can still have a rational conversation on HB 525”

The president of the Kentucky Education Association talked about the issue in a Facebook live video. Stephanie Winkler said in part, "We need to help our legislators understand that we are staying vigilant and we are not going to allow anything that is going to damage our pension system or systems, we have to. We need to protect them at all cost, because that’s all we have."

"Everyone needs to call the legislative message line 1-800-372-7181," Winkler added. "I'm getting messages as I'm doing this video that the legislative message line that you are burning it up and that's great."

You can watch the full video below.

Kentucky's Education Commissioner Dr. Wayne Lewis also commented on the 'sick out.'

"It is unfair to Kentucky's students and families, unresponsibile, and irresponsible to attempt to shut down our state's public school system because a House committee will consider a bill," said Dr. Lewis. "Educators can and should make their views known in Frankfort, but there is no reason for our kids not to be in school tomorrow."

WKYT also checked on the status of the current pension bill. House Bill 504 was filed last Thursday.

It was moved to the State Government committee the following day. We don't know when lawmakers are expected to hear the bill.