LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Jefferson County Public Schools canceled school for the fifth time in two weeks after teachers called in sick saying they were concerned lawmakers would pass a number of bills that may have a negative impact on public education.
JCPS made a deal with the Jefferson County Teacher's Association last week allowing schools to send a specific number of representatives to protest in Frankfort for the remainder of the legislative session in hopes of avoiding another sick-out, but teachers continued to call in sick.
Each day of the sick-out, WHAS11 viewers have reached out with questions about how the days will stack up in terms of money, graduation, pay and more.
Are the sick-out days costing the district millions of dollars per day? Did the district plan to fill substitute positions with central office staff? Are bus drivers getting paid during the sick-outs? Are teachers retaining their sick days?
In short, no, the sick-outs are not affecting the budget. In fact, the budget is much more complex. But yes, JCPS did plan to fill substitute positions with central office staff. The district said it planned to only fill those positions with staff that has teaching certifications. Teachers will retain their sick days, because the district closed. Finally, most bus drivers are getting paid during the sick-outs.
WHAT WE FOUND:
To verify most of these questions, WHAS11 turned to Renee Murphy, JCPS' chief communications officer. On its website, JCPS said its annual budget for the 2018-19 school year was $1.7 billion. With up to 260 working days (also found on its website), some did the math and concluded the sick-outs must be costing the district roughly $6.5 million per day, but Murphy verified this to be false.
Murphy said the budget is based on the number of mandated days JCPS is required to have kids in school, which is 185. Since these sickout days will be made up at the end of the year, just as snow days are, it doesn't change the budget. Murphy did say where the district has lost money is through the money it has spent on meals for students on the days off, but she didn't have an exact figure for that amount. In addition, the district could lose money if the make-up days continue to push further into June and possibly diminish overall student attendance.
Some people posted on the Dear JCPS Facebook group claiming the district planned to fill substitute teacher vacancies with central office staff. When asked, Murphy verified this to be true. She said the staff they planned to fill those positions with had teaching certifications.
When it comes to pay, John Stovall, the president of Teamsters Local 783, represents JCPS bus drivers. Stovall said whether or not drivers are getting paid during the sick-outs depends on how they chose to collect their paycheck.
"Those who chose not to take escrow, which means they only get paid on the days they work, they will not get paid for the days they're missing now, but they will be paid because they'll extend the school year and they'll have to make those days up," Stovall said.
Stovall verified some drivers are not getting paid during the sick-outs. He said about 100 drivers are losing up to $150 a day per sickout, but that money will be recouped. Stovall said those drivers are aware they won't get paid whenever the schools close, such as snow days. Other drivers who choose to get a paycheck year round won't see a difference at all from the sick-outs
Because JCPS continues to push back the date for the end of the school year, teachers will also retain their sick days for the five days JCPS was closed due to Frankfort protests. As of March 13, JCPS plans to end school Thursday, June 6. That date will continue to push back if there are more sick-out days.