On Underappreciated Educators in Kentucky

I’ve read that in less than 36 hours after apologizing for his incendiary language about Kentucky educators, Governor Matt Bevin has once again used harsh rhetoric, this time referring to their tactics as “thug.” Bless his heart. For disclosure’s sake, I’m not registered with either party, but as an Independent—mostly because I think independently of any platform. Nevertheless, this is just troublesome. I genuinely hope that Governor Bevin isn’t taking a page from President Trump’s book by thinking he can insult his way to victory. While the nation may bear with President Trump’s attitude, Kentuckians, by in large, are folks who are kind and considerate of others. This is so not Kentuckian what the Governor’s doing.

I don’t think anyone would disagree that the pension system is in peril, but the educators of Kentucky have not caused the mess. I would imagine that anyone who takes the time to fix the problem will be the sacrificial lamb in a game of politics. I don’t envy the Governor his choices that he may have to make regarding it, but let’s lay out a few things first:

  • A promise made is a promise that ought very well to be kept. Kentucky teachers go to school to gain a bachelor’s degree, and many have to obtain a master’s degree within a specific window after that. They go into education because the schedule rocks, they get to make a difference in kids’ lives, and despite the relatively modest pay, they receive benefits that make the necessary sacrifices worth it. If Governor Bevin were president, would he accuse senior citizens of thuggery because they insist on social security and Medicare—two other systems that are underfunded and broken? While a Kentucky educator’s retirement is vastly better than social security—which I’m told KY teacher’s don’t contribute to because of their pensions—if the people to whom the promise is made are at fault for insisting on what they were promised, I will shudder to see who else he would blame in any other sector.
  • Educators aren’t bad people for insisting on what they were promised. I bet when Governor Bevin was private citizen/entrepreneur Bevin, he fully expected to receive what he was owed and due him. I’d even go so far as to say that he would fire people if they didn’t deliver the results they said they could, so he should be cautious who he calls names because he’s very much like the people he’s chastising.
  • For a Governor who touts his Christianity, he is acting somewhat unChristian. Name-calling is not something that is lauded in Scripture. While Jesus did name-call—Pharisees were hypocrites, remember—he didn’t use poor logic. He merely stated the fact. Bevin, not knowing the hearts of people, should stay on point and avoid ad hominem attacks. It detracts from the issue.
  • If anything, he needs to focus on the broken pension system and find a way to fix it either by increasing revenue or decreasing Kentucky’s budget to make up for the shortfall. Were he to actually fix the problem, he would likely be guaranteed a second term, and this would look good on his political resume. He needs to stop making this a political issue. This is anything but that. It’s an issue about what’s right. Sure, he didn’t create the mess, but if he’s the awesome guy he claimed to be while running for governor, he would prove it and fix this.

I look back and remember some teachers who blessed me. The first two names to come to mind are Mr. Offitt and Mrs. Oldham (now Baker). The former my grammar teacher and the latter my music teacher. Few teachers are memorable, but those that are memorable leave a footprint in one’s life that endures even into adulthood. I minister at a church with many wonderful educators. Most only wish that government would get out of their way and let them do what they love to do.

I confess I wouldn’t ever want to be a teacher. They work beyond school hours and aren’t paid for it, they often spend money out of their pockets for things they need in the classroom, and, now, to top it all off, they are ridiculed only because they want what they expected to receive upon entering and staying in their profession. I’m sure they’ve been called a lot of things, but I’m sure they’ve been called worse too. All they have to do is endure the remainder of Bevin’s term, and maybe they’ll receive respect from a state leader who follows.