Speaking Tuesday before a group of retired teachers, Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear vowed that, if he’s elected governor in November, “the war on public education will be over.”
Appearing with running mate Jacqueline Coleman, an educator and current assistant principal in Nelson County, Beshear contrasted himself against his opponent, incumbent Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, whom he labeled a bully targeting teachers.
During a news conference at a local Kentucky Education Association office, Beshear described his plan to boost teacher pay by $2,000 statewide, create a loan forgiveness program to “retain and recruit new teachers” and support professional development for current educators, among other priorities.
“In the last four years, teachers have been called names. They have been bullied. They have even been locked out of their own Capitol,” Beshear said, referring to teacher protests opposing a pension bill last year.
“It’s time to end the bullying. Teachers deserve our respect,” Beshear said.
Asked by the Daily News to provide more details about how he intends to provide for the pay raise for teachers, Beshear said: “Well, we include it in our budget. This governor gave a $50 million tax break to banks. He gave $15 million to Braidy Industries. He gave a tax break to some of the wealthiest of Kentuckians and he all fit it within a budget. We’re going to do the same.”
Drawing on her experience as a high school teacher and basketball coach, Coleman said she’s lived with the disappointment of state budget cuts, deficient classroom supplies and the “personal and professional stress of having to do more with less year in and year out.”
As a result, Coleman said she’s seen young people steer clear of the profession and watched colleagues leave the profession before their time, saying they were unable to support their families on teachers’ wages.
“At the same time that the average Kentucky teacher pays over $400 out of her own pocket for classroom supplies, we’ve endured relentless personal attacks from this governor,” she said.
Beshear’s campaign attempted to put Bevin on the defensive through the release of a new ad. The ad criticized Bevin’s past budget proposals to shift millions of dollars in school transportation and health insurance costs to local school districts and eliminate funding for textbooks and instructional materials, according to The Associated Press.
In response, Bevin said he’d done more than his predecessors, touting his efforts to fully fund teachers’ pensions, ensure 100 percent of state lottery proceeds go to education and boost per-pupil education funding.
Bevin’s campaign also released its own video ad rebutting Beshear’s ad. It features the governor’s grandmother, who taught high school for decades and relied on her pension checks into her 90s.
“We’re going to keep the promises that we’ve made to people. It’s a simple as that,” Bevin said in the ad.
In response to Beshear and Coleman’s remarks here Tuesday, the Daily News reached out to Bevin’s reelection campaign for comment by email. The campaign’s press office forwarded a news release promoting the video ad.