Bevin administration stirs up controversy with pensions, subpoena, basketball


While teachers protested this morning, Governor Matt Bevin held a short anti-abortion rally. Teacher protestors stayed silent, with their backs turned to him as he ignored their presence. Photo by Piper Hansen.

Reece Gunther

Governor Matt Bevin’s week in Frankfort has been filled with controversy in the education realm.

Following his announcement Tuesday that he would veto the pension bill that the Kentucky General Assembly passed on the last day of the 2019 legislative session, Bevin’s administration also issued a subpoena on Wednesday to Jefferson, Oldham and Bullitt County Public Schools for the names of teachers who participated in the recent sickouts.

Regarding the pension bill, Bevin argued that Kentucky retirees would suffer from the new relief system, citing legal and ethical concerns. Bevin indicated his intentions to call a special session sometime before July 1, potentially opening the opportunity for more sickouts.

Bevin’s veto also signals a divide between Republicans in the state legislature and the governor’s office, as Senate President Robert Stivers issued a statement condemning the governor’s veto.

Stivers claims that Bevin was originally supportive of the bill, House Bill 358, and said that the governor even went as far as to write a letter of support, which was delivered to lawmakers before the vote, for the current edition of the bill.

Bevin, however, claims that the bill has changed since he wrote his letter of approval and said that a “a blatant violation of the inviolable contract” was added to the bill before passage.

If the pension bill veto wasn’t enough to put teachers on edge, Kentucky’s Department of Labor demanded the names of teachers who participated in the sickouts even though Jefferson County Public Schools had already given them to Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis.

Lewis and Bevin both denied any involvement in the subpoena, however, Brent McKim, Jefferson County Teachers Association president, called on Bevin to overrule the subpoena.

“So when Governor Bevin’s Commissioner of Education assured educators consequences would not be pursued against them, then Governor Bevin should make certain that his Secretary of Labor honors that assurance,” McKim said in a statement.

Critics of Bevin suggested that the governor could be directing officials in his administration to compile an enemies list, but the governor adamantly denied it.

Bevin also took time this week to criticize Louisville Women’s Basketball coach Jeff Walz during a radio interview on WHAS-840 Wednesday evening.

Bevin said that the Louisville women “got out-coached, straight up.” His comments came soon after he congratulated Kentucky’s men’s basketball team for a Sweet 16 win but neglected to congratulate Louisville’s women.

“If he’d been a little more focused on game strategy and coaching that weekend, and a little less on this kind of silliness, the better team would have won,” Bevin said.

Bevin’s ring of controversy comes during a pivotal election year for the governor. He will face at least one Republican opponent during the primaries and a Democratic candidate in the general election in November.