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Kentucky Governor Says Teachers’ Strike Left Children Vulnerable to Sexual Assault and Drugs

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin says children were left vulnerable to harm, sexual assault and drugs as a result of public school closures throughout the state Friday to allow teachers and supporters to protest at the state’s Capitol.

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin speaks at the unveiling of a new Toyota engineering headquarters Oct. 30, 2017 in Georgetown, Kentucky. (Credit: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin speaks at the unveiling of a new Toyota engineering headquarters Oct. 30, 2017 in Georgetown, Kentucky. (Credit: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

“I guarantee you somewhere in Kentucky today a child was sexually assaulted that was left at home because there was nobody there to watch them,” the Republican governor told reporters Friday afternoon, according to CNN affiliate WDRB. “I guarantee you somewhere today, a child was physically harmed or ingested poison because they were home alone because a single parent didn’t have any money to take care of them.”

Bevin went on to say that “some were introduced to drugs for the first time because they were vulnerable and left alone.”

CNN has reached out to Bevin’s communications director. The governor’s press secretary did not immediately return CNN’s request for comment Saturday morning.

The Kentucky Education Association, which organized Friday’s rally, strongly opposes a bill to overhaul pensions that Gov. Bevin signed this week. Under the bill, new hires will have to enter a cash-balance plan, as opposed to a traditional pension, and teachers will be limited in the number of new sick days they can put toward their retirement.

Members of the teachers union also were critical of Bevin’s vetoes of budget and revenue bills, both of which the union said are crucial to funding public education.

On Friday, Bevin claimed to see people “hanging out” and “taking the day off” as teachers and school personnel gathered at the Capitol in Frankfort.

Public school teachers and their supporters protest against a pension reform bill outside the senate chambers at the Kentucky State Capitol April 2, 2018 in Frankfort, Kentucky. (Credit: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

Public school teachers and their supporters protest against a pension reform bill outside the senate chambers at the Kentucky State Capitol April 2, 2018 in Frankfort, Kentucky. (Credit: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

“I’m offended by the fact that people so cavalierly, and so flippantly, disregarded what’s truly best for children,” he said.

Bevin’s comments received bipartisan backlash in the state.

“There are no words for this other than, I am appalled!” President of the Kentucky Education Association Stephanie Winkler wrote on Twitter.

Republican state Sen. Max Wise, who serves as the chamber’s Education Committee chairman, also had harsh words for Bevin’s remarks.

“The disgusting comments by Gov. Bevin insinuating that a peaceful protest by teachers would lead to sexual assault are reprehensible,” Wise said Friday on Twitter. “I don’t agree with these comments & I find them repulsive.”

Kentucky teachers rally in ‘day of action’ at state Capitol

Inspired by her special needs students, Leslie Busch joined her fellow teachers Friday at the state Capitol in Frankfort in what the Kentucky Education Association called “a day of action.”

If public education doesn’t get additional funding, Busch said, more families will turn to charter and private schools, some of which won’t accept students with special needs or will make them pay more to attend.

“That’s unfair,” Busch told CNN. “I am adamant about giving my students a fair chance to be a working member of society when they grow up.”

Dozens of public school districts throughout Kentucky canceled Friday’s classes to allow teachers and school personnel to attend the Capitol rally, according to CNN affiliate WLKY.

Pensions also in play

The Kentucky Education Association also strongly opposes a pension reform bill that Bevin signed this week under which new hires will have to enter a hybrid cash-balance plan, as opposed to a traditional pension. It also limits new sick days teachers can put toward their retirement.

Members of the teachers union also were critical of Bevin’s vetoes of budget and revenue bills, both of which the union said are crucial to funding public education.

On Friday night, legislators in the Republican-controlled Senate voted to override the vetoes.

“We acknowledge neither bill gives the citizens of the Commonwealth everything that our students, their parents and our communities need.” the Kentucky Education Association said on Facebook. “However, both bills provide much needed P-12 funding for the next biennium.”

The governor tweeted his disapproval.

“We have time to do this correctly. The people of Kentucky deserve nothing less. Transparency makes for good policy AND good politics,” he wrote. “I have met with House and Senate leaders all week to propose more responsible ways to pay for 100% of the requested education funding. Crickets.”