The Kentucky Republican Party posted the attack on social media Tuesday, accusing teacher unions of promoting “anti-American greatness” in classrooms by keeping schools closed because of the coronavirus.
The Twitter post was soon deleted, but the state Democratic Party kept it, saying the tweet signaled that the GOP’s stance on public school teachers was more than just a “Bevin problem”.
The subject was fertile ground for the Kentucky Democrats last year when they criticized former Republican Governor Matt Bevin for arguing with teachers over mass rallies they held to fund pensions and public schools, on what to do with it resulted in some schools canceling classes. Bevin lost the gubernatorial election to Democrat Andy Beshear, who built his campaign on the support of public employees, especially public school teachers.
The state’s Republican Party released the tweet Tuesday at a time when many Kentuckers are calling for absentee ballots for the November election because of the risks associated with public gatherings. The tweet blew up “radical teacher unions promoting anti-American grandeur in our classrooms and wanting to keep our schools closed”.
The tweet said the unions had Senate Democratic nominee Amy McGrath and Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ national Democratic ticket “in their back pocket”.
McGrath, a retired Marine fighter pilot, challenges Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in a spending showdown in November.
The Republican tweet added that students “MUST return to classrooms safely!” It showed pictures of Biden, Harris and McGrath and said they would crouch “behind” the teachers’ union.
State Democratic spokeswoman Marisa McNee said the tweet showed Bevin “wasn’t an outlier, but rather a reflection of how Kentucky Republicans think of our teachers and educators.”
“While teachers are adapting their lessons on the fly and working to feed the students and protect families, the Republicans of Kentucky are attacking them,” she said in a statement.
In response, McGrath said, “As a 20 year old marine and combat veteran, I know something about ‘American greatness’.
Beshear said the attack fueled divisions during a public health crisis and happened while teachers were busy providing distance learning to their students until schools reopen.
“Don’t attack our educators,” said Beshear on Tuesday. “And trying to make them sound like union thugs is wrong, first of all. Unions are made up of hard-working individuals, everyone out there.”
Teachers, he said, “are purely American, not anti-American.”
A state GOP spokesman did not respond to emails asking for comments.
Kentuckers will make their presidential, congressional and legislative elections in this year’s election.
Beshear has asked the Kentucky school districts to wait until September 28 to resume face-to-face classes. Beshear, father of two, has called it a tough but necessary step to give the state more time to get the coronavirus under control.
McConnell has been campaigning to get students back into the classroom, but has stressed over the past few weeks that this is a decision by local school authorities.
“I don’t think our job in Washington is telling schools whether to return in person or work remotely when they have that skill,” McConnell said during a recent performance in Kentucky.
McConnell has proposed donating $ 105 billion nationwide to education – K-12 schools and higher education – in the latest coronavirus aid package proposed by GOP senators. Negotiations between the House Democrats and the Senate Republicans over another round of aid have stalled.
To date, Kentucky has received more than $ 406 million in education from previous federal aid laws related to viruses that McConnell worked on.
Teachers have expressed their collective political muscles more strongly in recent years.
Bevin’s approval ratings as governor fell after criticizing teachers and other civil servants for opposing his proposed changes to the public pension system. Kentucky’s public retirement plans are among the worst-funded in the country, and teachers railed about the limits they believed placed on the benefits of future recruitment.
Teachers using sick leave to mobilize at the statehouse – which forced some school districts to close – became his frequent target. He once alleged without evidence that a child left home alone was sexually assaulted on a day when teacher rallies resulted in widespread school closings. He later apologized.