Does Gov. Matt Bevin really want to make amends with teachers?
A little genuineness goes a long way.
When educators protested Bevin in Catlettsburg on Saturday, they were exercising their first-amendment right. They did so peacefully — it’s not like a riot broke out — and within reason.
Bevin, undoubtedly a polarizing figure, had a positive announcement to make from the courthouse steps. He declared Boyd County will receive more than $800,000 in funds for road improvements. Later in Greenup County, he made a similar announcement that involved more than $900,000. He made stops in Greenup, Raceland and later Ashland for the annual Ashland Alliance meeting.
However, perhaps his single-most important action of Saturday’s busy day was extending an invitation to personally meet with protesting teachers. He said, in front of everyone, that they would exchange contact information.
If Bevin truly wants to make a good impression, he’ll follow through on this offer.
Granted, it probably won’t win over these teachers to the point that they’ll vote for him. That bridge may already be burned.
Bevin’s purpose in promising a meeting should not be to obtain their vote or support. It should be to show that he cares.
Does Bevin care about teachers?
Public-school educators likely have a quick, red-faced reaction to that question.
Back in August, Bevin’s administration conducted an investigation that revealed 1,074 teachers violated Kentucky law when they participated in a “sickout” during this year’s legislation session over pension-benefit concerns.
At the time, Labor Cabinet Secretary David Dickerson said the administration was extending grace and did not issue penalties for the violations.
“Extending grace” hasn’t been a habit of Bevin’s when it comes to his speech.
Just like with the president, Bevin’s path to unpopularity begins with word choice. Tactful responses to certain sensitive issues would help diminish ill feelings directed at him.
If he truly cares about public educators, he will meet with them. He will hear them. He will listen. Obviously, he doesn’t have to — and likely won’t — agree.
But if he doesn’t follow through on this offer, it will all be perceived as an act.