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Beshear Amps Up Battle With Bevin Over ‘Sickout’ Teachers

Liz Schlemmer

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear took another jab at Governor Matt Bevin Friday, one day after scoring a win in their on-going battle over whether the state will discipline teachers for participating in “sickouts” that closed Jefferson County Public Schools six days this spring.

Beshear’s challenge is the latest highlight in his campaign to unseat Bevin as governor.

In a campaign appearance Friday, Beshear said Bevin should “do something right” and fire his Labor Secretary David Dickerson for pursuing an investigation into teachers who called in sick to protest education bills at the Capitol. 

“This Governor has shown he is willing to fire members of his administration, even if they work for someone else in his administration,” Beshear said, referring to the firing of Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton’s deputy chief of staff by Bevin’s chief of staff.

“While not everyone agrees with how teachers demonstrated, nobody agrees that they should be fined $1,000 a day,” Beshear said.

Earlier this spring, the Labor Cabinet sought and obtained attendance records that could show which school employees called in sick to protest at the Capitol this spring. The Labor Cabinet has argued it has the duty to investigate whether teachers broke state law that prohibits public employees from striking. The fine for any violation of that law could range up to $1,000.

As Attorney General, Beshear filed a lawsuit against the Labor Cabinet in April, seeking an injunction on that investigation. On Thursday, Beshear won a small victory in that lawsuit, when a U.S. District Court judge ruled the case belonged in state court.

Beshear filed the suit in state court, and the Labor Secretary’s attorneys sought to move it to federal court. Both sides have accused the other of court-shopping for a more favorable judge.

The case was originally assigned to be heard by Judge Phillip Shepherd. Last year, Shepherd ruled in Beshear’s favor in a suit challenging the pension reform bill supported by Bevin. Beshear’s office has confirmed that the case is now expected to return to Shepherd’s docket after the Labor Cabinet lost its petition to move the case.

A Bevin campaign spokesperson didn’t return a request for comment Friday afternoon.

Liz Schlemmer is WUNC's Education Policy Reporter, a fellowship position supported by the A.J. Fletcher Foundation. She has an M.A. from the UNC Chapel Hill School of Media & Journalism and a B.A. in history and anthropology from Indiana University.
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