The Forward Five – Thursday, 3/25/21

Five Things to Know Today

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— Publisher’s Note —

Good morning! Well, the two vetoes we’d been waiting on finally arrived on Wednesday. Governor Beshear vetoed the so-called “school choice” bill, and the “pay teachers less” bill.

HB 563 would have taken $25 million out of the budget to create Educational Scholarships, which are funds families can use to attend a different school. There were three bad things about the bill:

  • It uses the $25M to give tax credits to wealthy people who “donate” into the scholarship fund. A tax credit is a one-for-one reduction in taxes, so if a person donates $5,000, they get $5,000 taken off their taxes. And if they donate stock, they get the same credit PLUS they don’t have to pay capital-gains tax.
  • It gives our public-education money to private companies to run their private schools, with no accountability and no oversight.
  • It takes a chunk out of the budget at a time when we don’t have enough revenue to start with. As Beshear noted, the $25 million would have been more than enough to pay for textbooks for the state – which the Repubs did NOT include in their budget.

This is a bad bill, and would begin the march toward privatizing public schools – long a goal of some Republicans. Let’s hope the veto stands.

The other bad bill Beshear vetoed was HB 258, this session’s pension bill. It would move new teachers out of the regular teacher’s pension system and into a “hybrid” plan, which combines a guaranteed pension with a stock-market-based 401k system. And, it requires new teachers to work longer for less retirement, with no increase in salary to make up for it.

So, at a time when we are having trouble recruiting new teachers, we are telling persons looking for jobs “Hey, come work for us. We downgraded the retirement system, and you don’t get Social Security, and you have to work longer to get it, and our salaries are lower than other states. Sounds great, right?”

As Rachel Maddow says, Watch what they do, not what they say. And what Republicans in Frankfort did was pass two bad bills that attacked and undermined our public schools. We’ll find out next week if some of them, at least, care more for our schools and our teachers than they do about flexing their (partisan) muscles.

Bruce Maples, publisher
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Today’s Five Things to Know

Beshear vetoes 2 education bills; signs 5 others into law

Beshear vetoed HB 563, the so-called “school choice” bill, and HB 258, which makes new teachers work longer for less guaranteed benefits. (Forward Kentucky)

3/25 update — Kentucky’s positive-test rate for the coronavirus falls to 2.85%

The percentage of Kentuckians testing positive for the novel coronavirus dropped again Wednesday, to 2.85%, as the state’s vaccination program continued to expand. (Forward Kentucky)

Kentucky juvenile justice commissioner fired for alleged bullying, harassment and lying

LaShana Harris, Kentucky’s juvenile justice commissioner, has been fired for alleged harassment, bullying and creating a “toxic environment that drove many employees to tears,” according to state personnel records the state released Wednesday evening.

A Tuesday letter from Personnel Cabinet Secretary Gerina Whethers notified Harris of her dismissal from the $115,000-a-year job effective immediately for bullying, untruthfulness, violations of the state’s policy on harassment and lack of good behavior.

Her behavior included threats, intimidation, shouting, excessive anger and treatment of employees that drove some to seek medical attention, according to a 30-page report of an investigation by the Personnel Cabinet.

Further, the report found Harris lied in denying some of the allegations, including denying that she told juvenile justice employees she had “spies” everywhere, although an employee provided a recording of the conversation. (Courier-Journal)

‘No unknown soldiers’: How Kentucky missed over 600 deaths from COVID-19

On March 6 — the one-year anniversary of COVID-19 in Kentucky — Gov. Andy Beshear held an outdoor memorial service at the state Capitol for the nearly 5,000 Kentuckians who had died in the past year from the coronavirus. “There will be no unknown soldier in this battle against COVID,” said Beshear, standing before 4,754 American flags, each representing a death.

But within two weeks, that number would jump by more than 600, after the state added previously unreported COVID-19 deaths it uncovered through an audit of public health records.

A complex reporting system, delays in obtaining records and simple human error contributed to the state’s discovery of 662 more deaths from COVID-19. And there may be more, Beshear said. “This won’t be the last audit that we do. We will update when we get the information to make sure everybody’s loss is counted.” (Courier-Journal)

Standing up to racism against Asians

Atlanta shootings prompt ‘Stop Asian Hate Rally’ at UK

Hundreds of people gathered Wednesday at the University of Kentucky to condemn the violence in Atlanta on March 16. Speaking to a diverse crowd in front of Memorial Hall, UK faculty, administrators, students, and local business leaders voiced solidarity against racism in light of increased violence against Asian Americans since the COVID-19 pandemic began. (WUKY)

The Louisville anti-hate vigil — a photo gallery

Hundreds of people attended a vigil on Sunday in Louisville, to stand AGAINST hate and to stand WITH the Asian-American community. Del Ramey attended the vigil, and shares this photo gallery. (Forward Kentucky)

Recent Content on Forward Kentucky

[new] indicates item not in a Forward Five before
🔥 indicates high # of reads, social media shares, or both

[New] 🔥Doc Rand Paul, meet Doc John Johnson of Paducah – Paul doesn’t “let facts get in the way of a good rant.” Neither did another right-wing Kentucky physician-turned-politician – state Sen. John Johnson, who helped lead the state’s Southern Rights party early in the Civil War. (Commentary)

Beshear vetoes three more bills, including one attacking open records laws – Governor Andy Beshear issued vetoes on three more bills on Tuesday, noting that each of the bills harmed Kentuckians instead of helping them. (News)

Beshear signs ten bills in signing ceremony on Tuesday – On Tuesday, Gov. Andy Beshear signed 10 bills that prioritize the well-being and safety of all Kentuckians, with a special focus on protecting seniors and vulnerable children and families. (Press Release)

Governor signs 13 health-related bills into law, including one that caps insulin co-payment at $30/month – Gov. Andy Beshear signed 13 health bills into law Monday, highlighting one that caps insulin costs for about 30 percent of Kentuckians who need the life-preserving hormone. (News)

🔥 Veto-proof budget includes health-departments pension reforms, but no money for health-related proposals made by governor – The budget does not include money for the many health-related items that were in Beshear’s proposal, but it does include money for one: pension reform for health departments and quasi-governmental agencies. (News)

🔥Dear Repubs – We’ve got your call-out culture right here! – Repubs are worried about being “called out” when they don’t deserve it. But, based on these hair-on-fire statements they’ve made through the years, they actually need to be called out regularly. (Commentary)

Governor Beshear delivering his state address on the pandemic (photo by Tom Latek, Kentucky Today)

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Forward Kentucky is an independent media organization focused on progressive news and issues in Kentucky. Our objectives are to provide journalism that is objective, policies that are effective, and commentary that is progressive. Our goal is to help Kentucky become all that it can be through government that works, for all. We are "the progressive voice for Kentucky politics."

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