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Kentucky teachers rally over retirement cuts, warn of strike

Hundreds of teachers in central Kentucky rallied in front of public schools Thursday morning to protest proposed cuts to their retirement benefits in what could be a precursor to a statewide strike.

Kentucky state Senators on Wednesday took the first step toward passing a bill they say would save taxpayers $3.2 billion over the next 20 years and stabilize one of the country's worst-funded public pension systems. But most of those savings would come from a 33 percent cut to the annual cost-of-living raises for retired teachers, who are not eligible for Social Security benefits.

Teachers have called lawmakers and packed legislative committee rooms to show their opposition. But Thursday was the first organized protest at public schools in front of parents and students. It came just days after a nine-day statewide teacher strike in West Virginia ended when lawmakers there approved 5 percent raises.

"I think that Gov. Matt Bevin is not going to listen to anything else," Suzanne Sadler, a 33-year-old science teacher at Elkhorn Middle School in Frankfort, said of a possible strike. "He's not listening to anything on Facebook. He's not listening to our teachers who went to the Capitol. He's just not listening, so we need to make him listen."

Momentum is building around the nation for protests over pay and benefits for public school teachers. Teachers in Arizona are contemplating actions of their own amid growing frustration over meager pay. In Oklahoma, the president of the state's largest teachers' organization said Thursday that teachers will walk out of their classrooms April 2 if lawmakers don't approve a $6,000 raise by April 1. Teacher pay hasn't been raised by that state's legislature since 2008.

In Kentucky, teachers at 28 schools in eight districts around the state had planned to participate in protests. Sadler was one of about 50 teachers and staff from two public schools in the state Capitol who stood on the side of a busy road in frigid weather to hold signs opposing Senate bill 1. Shortly after 8 a.m., the teachers held a "walk in" as they all entered school together as a show of unity.

"There's people talking about a strike, I'm going to tell you that now. And would I support it? I would have to," said Su Sheridan, an art teacher at Elkhorn Middle School who is nearing retirement after a 33-year career. "Here's the thing: We're all calling and saying 'no' to Senate bill whatever, and I thought that would do it. But, you know, I'm not sure they're listening to phone calls."

Kentucky's public pension systems are among the worst-funded in the country. The state is at least $41 billion short of the money it will need to pay retirement benefits over the next 30 years, according to official estimates. Bevin, Kentucky's Republican governor, says the true number is far higher than that.

State lawmakers have taken painful steps to ensure the system is fully funded this year. Bevin's budget proposal would put $3.3 billion in the pension system, or 15 percent of all state spending, cutting most other state agencies by more than 6 percent to pay for it. The House-approved budget proposal would raise taxes on cigarettes and impose a new tax on opioids in part to pay for rising pension costs.

Asked about the "walk in" protests, Kentucky's acting House Speaker David Osborne said: "I hope they walk in every day to teach our kids."

On Wednesday, Bevin said anyone opposing pension changes is "either ill-informed or willfully blind." He went further during a Thursday morning radio interview on WKYX, noting that no one else in state government gets an annual cost-of-living adjustment.

"The idea that we are hanging onto this as somehow a sacred thing is silliness," Bevin said. "And the idea that people in retirement would rather get every cent they can get now with no guarantee the checks will keep coming for them or those still working is, frankly, selfish."

Teachers complain lawmakers won't consider other options for raising revenue, such as legalizing casino gambling as some neighboring states have done. Local Kentucky Education Association union president Kelly Beckett said teachers are some of the "most highly educated voters in our state."

"We completely understand what he's trying to do to public education and we are not going to stand for it," Beckett said.

The proposed changes would also affect school boards, requiring them to pay 2 percent of every new hire's salary into the Kentucky Teachers' Retirement System. It would be the first time the state's cash-strapped districts have had to contribute to teachers' retirement, a cost that has until now been carried 100 percent by state government.

"We've known where the governor stands on the issue of public education for a very long time," Franklin County Schools Superintendent Mark Kopp said. "He doesn't stand with teachers, and I do."

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Georgia Sports News

  • ATLANTA (AP) - The Atlanta Hawks draft room was split between Luka Doncic and Trae Young. The Hawks ultimately chose Young because he brought the Hawks a first-round draft pick. The Hawks added a new floor leader to their rebuilding effort by acquiring Young in Thursday night's exchange of NBA draft picks with the Dallas Mavericks. Atlanta drafted Doncic, the guard from Slovenia, with the No. 3 overall pick and then traded rights to Doncic to Dallas for rights to Young, who was the No. 5 selection, and a 2019 first-round pick. For Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk, it was all about remaining loyal to goals of adding talent and adding assets . 'In all honesty, our group was really split between the two,' Schlenk said, adding the Hawks regarded the guards as 'the best two playmakers in the draft.' 'Luka is a heck of a player. We were happy with him. Trae is a heck of a player. Obviously we're excited to have him. When the opportunity came to pick up a first-round pick from the Mavericks, it just kind of made sense to accomplish both goals with one move.' The Hawks will have three first-round picks in 2019, just as in this year's draft. Young is best known for his 3-point shooting. The Hawks selected Maryland's Kevin Huerter, a shooting guard, at No. 19 overall. Atlanta's third first-round pick was power forward Omari Spellman of Villanova, at No. 30 overall. Atlanta traded its second-round pick, Kansas point guard Devonte Graham, to Charlotte for second-round selections in 2019 and 2023. Schlenk focused on outside shooters in the draft. Young led the nation with his averages of 27.4 points and 8.7 assists for Oklahoma. He is the first player to lead the nation in scoring and assists in the same season. Huerter made 42 percent of his 3-point shots as a sophomore last season at Maryland while averaging 14.8 points per game. Spellman (6-9, 255) was considered one of the best shooters among big men in the draft. He made 43 percent of his 3s last season while averaging 10.9 points as a freshman starter on Villanova's national championship team. Young worked out for the Hawks on June 12. He said the trade to Atlanta wasn't a surprise. 'I got a feeling past few days that would happen, that was a possibility, but you never really know until your name is called,' Young said in a telephone interview. The 6-foot-2 Young scored at least 40 points in four games and tied a Division I record by recording 22 assists in a game. Young's deep 3-pointers earned him comparisons with Golden State's Stephen Curry, but Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk said he was won over by Young's floor leadership. 'We love his ability to pass the ball, to make other players better with his court vision,' said Schlenk, a former assistant GM with the Warriors. 'Obviously he gets a lot of notoriety for his long-range shooting, but I think his ability to pass the ball is what we really liked about him.' Schlenk's review impressed Young. 'It means a lot because a lot of people in my opinion are so focused on my ability to shoot, which is a really big thing, especially in the NBA, but my ability to pass I feel is really underrated,' Young said. Hawks veteran point guard Dennis Schroder's future in Atlanta is uncertain. Schlenk said Schroder and Young could play together. This is not the first time the Hawks have quickly traded the No. 3 overall pick. In 2001, the Hawks made Pau Gasol the No. 3 overall pick and then traded his draft rights to the Memphis Grizzlies for Shareef Abdur-Rahim. Doncic was Atlanta's highest draft pick since 2007, when center Al Horford was the No. 3 pick. The trade for Young gives first-year coach Lloyd Pierce a new scoring weapon. 'Obviously his ability to shoot the ball in today's NBA, the 3-point shot, is very important,' Schlenk said. 'What really separates him with his shooting is his ability to shoot off the dribble. You don't see that in a lot of guys and he possesses that.' The Hawks finished last in the Eastern Conference last season, when they began to rely heavily on young players. Forward-center John Collins showed promise as a rookie, and forward Taurean Prince is another young piece of the rebuilding effort. Veterans Kent Bazemore and Dwayne Dedmon are under contract for next season. ___ AP Sports Writer Schuyler Dixon in Dallas contributed to this report ___ More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball
  • Georgia football is the No. 1 topic every day on DawgNation Daily — the daily podcast for Georgia Bulldogs fans. Catch up on everything happening with UGA athletics with host Brandon Adams and the cast of DawgNation experts as they break down the latest Georgia football recruiting news and discuss UGA coach Kirby Smart’s quest to keep the Bulldogs on top of the SEC. On episode No. 726 (June 21, 2018) of the podcast, Georgia fans can hear a discussion about UGA missing out on another defensive line recruit and where they will turn next. Brandon Adams, host of DawgNation Daily, did  Thursday’s  show from Augusta, Ga., before a meeting of the local Georgia Bulldogs club. Brandon was joined by Jeff Sentell, DawgNation’s recruiting reporter. The two talked mostly about the ramifications of one of UGA’s top targets for the defensive line, Derick ‘Rambo’ Hunter, committing to Florida State over the Bulldogs, among many others. The two spent the rest of the show taking questions from fans about Georgia’s quarterback situation, etc. For the Wednesday (June 20) show, click here. For the video version of the Thursday show, click here. For older episodes of DawgNation Daily, click  here. The post Georgia football podcast: UGA missed out on another DL recruit. Find out where the Bulldogs will turn next. appeared first on DawgNation.
  • RUTLEDGE, Ga. — Driving East out of Atlanta, keep going on until there’s no evidence of civilization, exit onto Newborn Road and head south into the middle of nowhere. Turn left onto Centenniel Road, drive about a mile, then hang a right onto the gravel road known as Keencheefoonee. Proceed through the wooden gate, turn left at the horse stables pull into a dirt parking lot. Then walk downhill along an asphalt path through a shady white oak forest and emerge into sunlight and arrive at the happiest place on Earth. No, you’re not at Disney World. This place is better. You’ve arrived at Camp Twin Lakes, which for this one day at least is known as Camp Sunshine. Georgia coach Kirby Smart puts his arms around linemen Kendall Baker and Lamont Gaillard as the Bulldogs listen to a presentation by a nurse at the infirmary at Lake Twin Lakes on Wednesday. (Chip Towers/DawgNation) Longtime Georgia Bulldogs’ fans know the drill. UGA’s football team has been making this trek an hour and change south of Athens annually for most of the last 35 years. Vince Dooley, along with wife Barbara, was appointed to the Camp Twin Lakes board of directors in 1983 and the Bulldogs have been making a midsummer visit here every year since (well, every year accept for those under coach Jim Donnan, according to camp administrators). For the unenlightened, Camp Twin Lakes is a retreat in which children with cancer and their families can get away to enjoy outdoor recreational activities for the summer. It has air-conditioned cabins for “glamping,” swimming pools, lakes, a farm (complete with miniature cows and alpacas), sports playing fields, a zipline, a gymnasium and much more. All of the available activities are retrofitted to accommodate children battling different forms of cancer. And, of course, there’s an infirmary to attend to any children who might get sick — or just scrape a knee raising their buddy on one of the many trails snaking the expansive property. It’s here that one sees a whole different side of Georgia coach Kirby Smart. He completely drops his guard and relaxes. He back-slaps and jokes with his players. He peels off at the sight of any of the campers or there families. During the hour-long tour, he seems to know somebody personally at every corner and stops to chat, falling behind the tour and then double-timing it catch back up. The familiarity is because Smart has been coming to Camp Twin Lakes a very long time. He first started coming when his older brother Karl was diagnosed with leukemia in the 1990s. His brother has long since been well, but Kirby has kept coming. He came when he was an assistant coach at Valdosta State and when he was the Miami Dolphins and Alabama. “It’s convenient because I have a lake home that’s 30-45 minutes from here (on Lake Oconee),” Smart said Wednesday. “So through the years, when I was with the Dolphins or Alabama, I’d stop by. A couple of those years Karl was still here as a counselor, so being able to stop in here to see him and everybody was good. Now that he’s head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs, he brings his whole team with him, including wife Mary Beth, twins Julia and Weston and little Andrew. Wednesday they had a good time posing with a cardboard cut-out of Kirby and Karl on display in the camp’s courtyard. Andrew kept asking everybody when the dodge-ball game would start, and was front and center and in the middle of everything when it did. “He needs to get smacked around a little bit,” Smart said with a chuckle. “He’s a little too brave for his own good out there. The players are scared to bean him because they know he’s mine.” “Nobody’s like Kirby,” said Mo Thrash, one of the original founders of Camp Sunshine who serves as the Bulldogs’ tour guide and taskmaster each year. “He’s come every year since he’s been out of college. He’d always call me and say, ‘Mo, can I come to camp?’ He show up, spend an hour, hour-and-a-half with me walking around the camp saying hey to kids. No press, nobody around, just being himself. Then he’d leave. He did it every year. Then he became Georgia’s head coach. He’s just very special.” Wednesday was the first of two trips that the Bulldogs will make to Camp Sunshine. In all, Smart said about 70 players signed up to participate. About the other half will come next Wednesday. The first group seemed to include a lot of freshmen and first-year players. Notre Dame transfer Jay Hayes, wearing his new number 97 Georgia jersey, was front-and-center for many of the activities. So was long and tall true freshman Tommy Bush, until they went to alpaca pin. The nearly 6-foot-6 tall receiver, wearing the No. 12, eased to the back of the pack when the group was asked to pet the odd-looking creatures. The many interactions with the campers and staff were entertaining to observe. The players were split into two groups and toured opposite ends of the complex. When being shown the cabins where the campers stay, the girls of Cabin 10 came pouring out and high-fived every player. “Oh my  God, they’re all so tall,” one of the young teens shouted. The residents are not all Georgia fans, either. At the intersection of two paths, a young man named William yelled, “go Gators.” To that the jersey-wearing group responded with a collective, “boo!”, then just laughed it off. In the cafeteria, Smart made a beeline to a young man wearing Alabama gear, including a crimson-and-white cast on his right leg. Colton, who’s 14, said he first met Smart when he was an assistant for the Crimson Tide. “Now he tries to talk me into being a Georgia fan, but he knows I won’t convert,” Colton said. Thrash showed the team the lake and pointed to the zipline and ropes course far across on the other side. “What’s the weight capacity on that?” Smart asked loud enough for everyone to hear. “We’ve got some people here we think can break it “Be sure to keep Fernando off it,” he added, referring to support staffer and former Georgia and NFL offensive lineman Fernando Velasco. At the heart of it all, though, is a serious message. “You guys are heroes to these kids; you’re heroes to me,” Thrash said when he huddled up the team at the outset of the tour. “So go in here, look around the place, see what we do, say hello to the kids, get to know them a little bit and have a good time.” Said Smart: “I want them to appreciated what they have. You look at some of these kids and see how they have to struggle and go through things. Some of them are well now and they come back because they’re the hope for so many other kids who are going through what they did.” For the team, it was a well-earned reprieve. They’ve been working out and doing conditioning every morning for the last two weeks. That includes Wednesday when the players signed up for the trip had to report to the Butts-Mehre football complex at 5:30 a.m. “I don’t know if everybody slept the whole way down because I was asleep as soon as the bus pulled out,” junior tight end Isaac Nauta said. Participants range from players like Nauta and senior center Lamont Gaillard, who have been every year since they arrived on campus, to junior running back Elijah Holyfield, who was making his first trip Wednesday. “My freshman and sophomore years I was kind of trying to do too much,” Holyfield said. “Finally I said I’ve got to go this year because everybody was talking about how much fun it is. I knew I had to do it before I left Georgia and I loved it, so I’ll be back next week as well.” It was especially re-energizing for the freshmen, who have known nothing but regimen and brutal intensity since they arrived on campus May 31. “I think they can finally see that there’s a human side to everybody and you can go out and have fun,” Smart quipped. Camp Sunshine unique to the University of Georgia. Located 51 miles east of downtown Atlanta, the camp is located in the heart of Bulldog Country. No other teams make the pilgrimage to the East Georgia outback. Just the Bulldogs. “It’s only a Georgia thing,” Thrash said. “We’d love for other teams to come in. But it’s always special when the Georgia Bulldogs come in. They’re part of Camp Sunshine.” A happy place indeed. The post Camp Sunshine is strictly a Bulldogs’ thing, and something Kirby Smart loves appeared first on DawgNation.