Beshear: This is a Kentucky Issue

Makes good on promise to reorganize Board of Education

The true test of Beshear is whether he can persuade lawmakers to stop the status quo of cuts, cuts, and more cuts, and introduce legislation that shows us the money, without burdening working class Kentuckians.

Try to keep up. At midnight, Andy Beshear was sworn in as Kentucky’s 63rd governor. While many were marching in the parade and celebrating the moment, Beshear immediately got to work keeping his promises. 

His first executive order reorganizes the Kentucky Board of Education and will likely result in the ousting of Kentucky Department of Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis. He also announced he will sign an executive order Thursday, restoring voting rights to 100,000 Kentuckians.

During his Inaugural Address, Beshear had the following to say about teachers.

“Kentucky faces a critical shortage of teachers. And far too many work a second job to make ends meet. Prioritizing our children also means prioritizing their teachers. If Kentucky is to compete nationally – not to mention with our neighbors – we need to pay our teachers a living wage.

If our public schools – especially those struggling communities – are going to survive and thrive, we need to make sure they are adequately funded.

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear

“We will start by including a $2,000 across-the-board raise in the budget we submit to the legislature. If our public schools – especially those struggling communities – are going to survive and thrive, we need to make sure they are adequately funded. That means looking at class size, providing technology and striving to give every child true opportunity. This is not a partisan issue. This is a Kentucky issue.

“The same goes for protecting the retirement of all our public employees. Kentucky’s educators, social workers, police officers, firefighters and other first responders keep their promise every day to serve, protect, rescue and educate. We must keep our promise to them and their families. This is not a partisan issue. This is a Kentucky issue.”

To fulfill all of his promises, Beshear will have to navigate a Republican legislature, that has expressed a willingness to work with Beshear on issues. To what extent won’t be known until things heat up in the 2020 General Assembly, but one mountain to climb will be finding revenue. 

At the moment, one can only be hopeful Beshear and the legislature can bridge their differences on revenue programs. A permanent funding source for pensions, funding for public education, needed infrastructure improvements, and other projects could come from a number of sources, some the legislature has said aren’t on the table. 

The true test of Beshear is whether he can persuade lawmakers to stop the status quo of cuts, cuts, and more cuts, and introduce legislation that shows us the money, without burdening working class Kentuckians. At the minimum, a serious conversation about recreational or medical marijuana, sports betting, casinos, increased hemp production, and increasing taxes paid by the wealthiest Kentuckians should occur. Among these, it’s realistic to expect even the most conservative lawmakers to consider medical marijuana, increased hemp production, and increasing taxes on the wealthiest Kentuckians, such as riding our state of the flat tax in favor of a more progressive system. It’s not likely, but considering gambling exists in Kentucky, casinos and sports betting should be on the table.

Many other issues exist, such as restoring the tax exemption of retirees to $41,000, healthcare, free community college, vocational training, and more. Imagine how much money could be generated and kept in Kentucky by addressing the before-mentioned revenue options. 

However, educators demonstrated in this election that they are a force. The kind of effort put toward Beshear’s campaign could do damage in local elections in 2020.

Now, we wait and see. I’m hoping educators and other Kentuckians don’t have to mobilize and fight against lawmakers who refuse to do right by Kentucky and work with Beshear. However, educators demonstrated in this election that they are a force. The kind of effort put toward Beshear’s campaign could do damage in local elections in 2020. For now, let’s enjoy this victory during the Holidays.

Beshear’s reorganized school board:

  • Former Kentucky Board of Education Chairman and state Sen. David Karem, of Louisville
  • Former University of Kentucky President Lee Todd, of Lexington
  • Holly Bloodworth, of Murray
  • Patrice McCray, of Bowling Green 
  • Mike Bowling, of Middlesboro
  • Sharon Porter Robinson, of Louisville
  • Lu Young, of Nicholasville
  • JoAnn Adams, of Pleasureville
  • Cody Pauley Johnson, of Pikeville
  • Claire Batt, of Lexington
  • Alvis Johnson, of Harrodsburg

An active elementary or secondary school teacher will serve as a non-voting member of the board alongside Council on Postsecondary Education President Aaron Thompson and Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman, who will serve as secretary of the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, as ex officio members, according to Beshear’s executive order.

Beshear appointed Allison Slone, a teacher at McBrayer Elementary School in Morehead, to the newly created seat in his order.