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Union Team Dominates Frankfort's Madness
By Jim Waters
FRANKFORT - COMMENTARY: While fans enjoy the annual tradition of March Madness on the basketball court, a different version of "madness" played out in this year's General Assembly.

The Kentucky Education Association, the statewide teachers' union with a $10.5 million budget, convinced hundreds of members to call in sick at the last minute, forcing some school districts to close for days – mostly at the last minute – and causing hardship for thousands of students and their families.

But the teachers weren't sick; they were mad.

Unfortunately, their anger is based on a whole of misinformation all-too-willingly provided by their union bosses and self-serving politicians falsely claiming any kind of pension reform impoverishes teachers when they retire and all school-choice options – even those allowing the poorest families to obtain a scholarship to enroll children to a private school – destroy public education.

Yet while many teachers have been misled and responded naïvely, they cannot be given a pass for lying to their employers about being sick and then showing up to heckle legislators like some angry coach cussing a referee on the basketball court.

Just as there are penalties for coaches who harass refs, there must be consequences for teachers lying in order to badger lawmakers who know that avoiding pension reform further threatens our state's economy and its ability to compete.  

While rights of teachers to protest must be protected, Kentucky law, which prohibits them from striking, must be vigorously upheld.

Otherwise, the lawlessness will continue, sending a very wrong message to our students: It's perfectly acceptable to fib to your employer and break the law if there's even a perception that you're not getting your way.

Unlike the 64-team NCAA version, Frankfort's rendition of March Madness has featured largely one team – the KEA, which uses its endless resources against the very taxpayers who provide the dollars funding their paychecks and schools.

Lovely, isn't it, that this radical union gets access to taxpayers' dollars, and can withdraw – apparently free of charge or consequence – from the Automated Taxpayer Machine whenever it gets the urge to oppose our interests?

Unfortunately, these withdrawals have fielded their team as the only one legislators have really seen or heard from in significant numbers.

Too many citizens outside the Frankfort bubble have not engaged, which, for legislators trying to do right, would be like the University of Kentucky basketball team struggling to take on a tough conference opponent at Rupp Arena where only the opposition's fans – in this case, those who support and enable the union's fearmongering propaganda – show up.

In such a scenario, even though UK is playing at Rupp, would it – without its fans – really have home-court advantage?

Free-market thinkers not only made great strides in the 2016 General Election, when Republicans took over the Kentucky House of Representatives for the first time in nearly a century, they also won reelection in November – even after their willingness to tackle tough issues like right-to-work, prevailing-wage repeal and paycheck protection for workers during their previous term in office.

Those were some of the toughest votes ever cast by Republicans, yet they did it in fine fashion.

What's it going to take to get the team back to that high and principled level of play?

Legislative leaders stand willing to launch three-pointers to make Kentucky competitive again.

Still, when the only fans who respond are the other team's law-breaking hecklers, politicians aren't exactly emboldened to perform with courage and inspiration – even when they have a better team.  


Jim Waters is president and CEO of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky's free-market think tank. Read previous columns at www.bipps.org. He can be reached at jwaters@freedomkentucky.com and @bipps on Twitter.

Published 12:00 PM, Sunday Mar. 31, 2019
Updated 09:23 AM, Thursday Apr. 04, 2019

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