Education Week - May 16, 2018 - 9
ganizing labor movements. But she comes from
a family with a history of fighting for working
people-her dad is a retired coal miner.
"My dad striked for 100 days once without
pay," Brewer said. "I know what it takes."
When Kentucky legislators began debating
changes to public pension plans this spring, she
started paying attention. Then, Brewer, 44, and a
friend started a Facebook group, "Kentucky 120
United," named for the 120 counties in the state.
"We knew we were building up to something,"
Kentucky lawmakers ultimately didn't make
changes to current teachers' or retirees' benefit
plans, but they did change how new teachers
will retire, putting new hires into what's known
as a "cash balance" plan, which is a hybrid of
a traditional defined-benefit pension and a
401(K) retirement savings plan. After that bill
passed, hundreds of teachers called in sick and
headed to the Capitol to protest, forcing about
20 districts to close.
"It was pretty amazing, because people told
us it couldn't be done," Brewer said. "Any time
someone tells me that, I'm like, 'Well, let's just
Timothy D. Easley/AP
Ross D. Franklin/AP
see.' I think people really underestimated Kentucky."
Kentucky teachers stormed the Capitol twice
more before the legislative session ended, although one of those protests coincided with
spring break, so the impact on schools was limited. Still, teachers came out victorious in one
regard: Legislators voted to override the governor's veto of an education budget, increasing
funding for public schools.
Unlike West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona, Kentucky teachers never went on a fullblown walkout or strike. They weren't asking
for higher pay-they were fighting to protect
their pension benefits, Brewer said. And the
legislative session was already winding down
when teachers organized.
"My regret is that we didn't form sooner," she
said. "We were up against the timeline here."
Now, Brewer's focus is on electing pro-education candidates in November.
"You never really expect this is going to happen," she said. "One moment, you're a design
person and kind of anonymous, and the next
thing you know, you're the face of this group."
Still, she is ready to pull back a little from the
day-to-day organizing of the movement, at least
for now: "It's boating season coming up."
From Facebook to the Oklahoma
Alberto Morejon was watching the news of the
West Virginia teacher strike from his home in
Oklahoma when he decided to make a Facebook
page for Sooner State teachers to discuss a walkout of their own.
A month later, Oklahoma teachers had walked
out of their classrooms, spurred on by Morejon's
"I never thought that my group would be the
driving force for everything, and I never thought
that I'd be one of the leaders of the walkout and
have a say in what happens," he said.
Morejon, 25, posted daily updates on the Facebook group during the walkout. He conducted
periodic surveys of members. All of that behindthe-scenes work positioned Morejon, who is an
8th grade U.S. history teacher in Stillwater,
as a main voice of the movement. At the state
Capitol during the walkout, teachers would yell
his name and stop him to ask for a picture or to
"They're really looking up to you, and they're
believing what you say, so you have to make sure
you have your facts straight ... [and] make sure
you're being transparent and honest," Morejon
said. "Pretty much whatever I told people, they're
going to take to heart."
In fact, teachers tended to look to Morejon for
updates over the Oklahoma Education Association. While Morejon spoke at the union's news
conference announcing the work stoppage, their
relationship disintegrated as the walkout went
on, he said.
"In my opinion, I don't think they ever wanted
the walkout to happen," said Morejon, who is not
an OEA member. "My group was questioning
why certain things were happening [throughout
the work stoppage]; we kept them accountable."
Now that the walkout is over, Morejon is considering running for the state house in two years.
"I've had a bunch of people ask me to run for
governor. I'm not even old enough," he said. "Six
EDUCATION WEEK | May 16, 2018 | www.edweek.org | 9