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Ed commissioner trying to bully teachers

EDITORIAL

The Advocate-Messenger

Wayne Lewis is attempting to shame and silence Kentucky’s teachers in a manner that is disturbing and harmful.

Kentucky’s commissioner of education has asked for the names of teachers who called in sick in 10 school districts where teachers have staged protests over legislation they feel would negatively impact education in the state.

Whether or not the districts actually give Lewis the names, and whether or not he does anything with them, the message he is sending to teachers is clear: Sit down and don’t speak — or else.

Lewis tried to couch his request as a necessary task to ensure students are getting the education they need. He pointed out that in many districts, teachers have been able to make their voices heard without any so-called “sick-outs.”

But the job of making sure individual teachers are doing their jobs belongs to principals at the schools where teachers work and district superintendents, not the head of the Kentucky Department of Education.

All of Kentucky’s school districts are different and they all have different ways of doing things. That’s a good thing — it lets local people have control over how their own children are educated. It might mean one district handles letting teachers participate in democracy differently than another. That’s no reason for the state to step in and tell local schools how to operate. If teachers were to cause a real problem, their school district leaders  should be the ones to handle things.

But Lewis doesn’t really care about a handful of shuffled school days in a few districts, or how those districts are dealing with teachers. The real purpose of his request is obvious: He wants to use his authority to bully teachers out of speaking and potentially affecting legislation.

That’s an abusive way to use his power and it should give any Kentuckian concerned about government overreach pause.