Thousands of teachers gathered in Frankfort on Monday to turn up the political heat on Kentucky lawmakers.
An estimated 8,000 educators from Paducah to Paintsville rallied at the Capitol, pressuring lawmakers to adequately fund public education as they voted on a new spending plan and a tax overhaul.
The next two-year state budget increases spending for the main funding formula for K-12 schools. The measure also restores money for bus transportation that Governor Bevin had proposed eliminating and returns money to school resource centers that help provide school supplies, clothing, and food to low-income students.
Warren County teacher Kim Coomer was there and spoke with WKU Public Radio during the bus ride home. She said the atmosphere was inspiring.
"It was electric," Coomer Stated. "Teachers were energized, happy to mobilize, and happy to have their voices heard."
The additional education spending would be paid for by a six percent sales tax on a range of services that had previously been tax-free, including auto repair and some home improvement. The spending and taxing proposals cleared the House and Senate on Monday and are headed to the governor's desk.
Coomer, who is president of the Warren County Education Association, said she believes the collective power of teachers had a real impact on lawmakers.
"I think they know that we're not going anywhere and that we're a force to be reckoned with, remarked Coomer. "I think they're trying to make some concessions, but I think it's too little, too late."
Coomer says she thinks that lawmakers who voted for the pension changes will be voted out of office this November, when all 100 House members are up for re-election.
Teachers have rallied several times during Kentucky's legislative session to protest the pension bill that preserves benefits for most workers but cuts them for new teachers.
Opponents objected that the pension changes were inserted into an un-related bill about sewage without a chance for public input, and fear the changes will discourage young people from joining the teaching profession.