Uncertainty is never a good thing. And that’s especially true when it comes to essential services provided by government bodies such as schools.

Reliability is not just expected, but necessary, to ensure the proper operation of these kinds of agencies.

However, what we’ve seen in the days and weeks since legislative actions led to teacher walkouts and protests is a level of distrust and unease which is neither healthy nor conducive to the operations of our schools.

But, we’re reaping what’s been sewn.

After all, as we’ve pointed out, the legislation which has raised the ire of teachers and other public employees was passed under less-than-transparent circumstances, without the benefit of legislators listening to the voices of those most heavily-impacted.

And, while arguments can, and will, continue over whether the action the legislature took was proper, especially considering the litigation which will likely tie this matter up for some time, there’s a pressing matter at hand that must be resolved — the need for a change in the way the government and public employees are dealing with each other.

Whether it was the correct method of fixing the state’s pension problems aside, the way the state went about passing the measure — at the last minute of a budget session, with little to no discussion or time to review the plan — was not right.

Then, Gov. Matt Bevin’s inflammatory, and highly unnecessary comments about the possibility of children being harmed or sexually assaulted because of the closure of schools set a definite highlight on the dysfunctional nature of the relationship between government and public workers, particularly teachers.

These issues must be ironed out, because there is no winner when two bodies such as this set themselves at odds. Regardless of the outcome of the legal challenges against the pension plan, either it or an alternative will be implemented at some point in the near future.

That process of implementation, or even resolution, can either result in a wedge being further driven in, dividing the two sides, or it can be the first (or next) step in a healing process which ultimately results in a stronger Kentucky, a Kentucky more ready to lead into the future.

And the inspiration, the call to arms on this is emblazoned on the state seal — “United we stand, divided we fall.” The secret to a union, especially one which is intended to tie together millions of people with different beliefs, backgrounds and visions, is not that it requires all the people to agree on every matter.

What it does require, however, is that the members of that body come to a consensus that civility will rule their dealings with each other, that they remain able to sit down and talk as reasonable adults about the issues, even if they don’t get their way.

Over the past few months in Kentucky, there has been a lot of talk of people and agencies getting their way, but a lot less talk about people sitting down together and searching for common ground. 

One Kentuckian who has been admired for nearly as long as “United we stand, divided we fall” has graced the state seal of Kentucky is Henry Clay, known as “The Great Compromiser.” Even though Clay rose to the heights of political accomplishment, he didn’t lose sight of the importance of compromise and civility in the public discourse. 

“All legislation, all government, all society is founded upon the principle of mutual concession, politeness, comity, courtesy; upon these everything is based ... ,” Clay wrote.

Let’s hope that we’ve not fallen too far from the conviction Clay had in those words and the reliance upon which the founders of this state had on the idea of “unity,” because we’re going to need all the unity we can get to get through the coming days.

— Appalachian Newspapers

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