FRANKFORT, Ky. (FOX 56) — Gov. Andy Beshear addressed Kentucky’s school superintendents Tuesday with his campaign’s education talking points. Attorney General Daniel Cameron also addressed the gathering Monday, presenting some of the policies from his education plan.
“In the end, it wouldn’t be the deciding element of the election. But it’s something that I think you’re going to see both sides continue to fight on,” FOX 56 News Political Analyst Jonathan Miller said.
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It’s not uncommon for education to get some of the spotlight in any election, but in this governor’s race, the issue has a lot of baggage from how the last governor treated teachers.
“I’m sorry. I apologize for anything that has been said that has made you less than enthusiastic about my party,” Cameron said Monday.
It’s an apology Cameron hasn’t shied away from making on the campaign trail. Cameron has promised to standardize teacher starting pay to at least $41,500 statewide and pay bonuses to those who teach in a flagship tutoring program to fix slipping test scores, which Cameron blames on the decisions made by his opponent during the pandemic.
“The rise in despondent students is born out of a shortsighted decision. It’s only added to the learning loss that you see,” Cameron said.
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Data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress shows declines in many areas, starting long before the pandemic. For example, in 2015, Kentucky ranked 9th in the nation in fourth-grade reading proficiency; as of last year, Kentucky has fallen to 29th. Eight-grade math scores have seen a similar decline, and enrollment in both pre-school and college is down.
Brigitte Blom, president, and CEO of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, told FOX 56, “One thing is for sure: Kentucky needs to be laser-focused on returning our educational outcomes to a place of progress, and, at the moment, they are some of the lowest we’ve seen in 30 years. While increasing state funding is a critical component, it’s equally essential to foster collaboration between schools, communities, and families to remove obstacles to academic achievement and create environments that ensure the highest quality teaching and learning.”
State funding is something Beshear has made a priority in his campaign, with a promise of an 11% pay raise and pushing against public money going to private or charter schools.
“And just remember the costs of the catch our plan, one of the specific bullet points. It has vouchers in there, and it does. That would devastate each and every one of our public school systems,” Beshear said during his speech Tuesday.
“What Gov. Beshear is saying is that certainly Cameron’s personality and his approach to teachers is a lot better than Bevin’s, but that his policies are not,” Miller said.
Whether Beshear can guarantee that pay raise is also a question, as Cameron also argued that his relationship with the GOP-led legislature is stronger and they ultimately control the budget. However, Cameron’s running mate also backed a pension cut in the Bevin years, which Miller said may still be a red flag for some teachers.