Like opposite sides of the coin used in Thursday night’s 100th NFL season opener, Republican Gov. Matt Bevin and Democratic challenger Attorney General Andy Beshear don’t see eye-to-eye on many issues. But when it comes to public education, the two gubernatorial candidates couldn’t be more divided in the public eye.
Fueled in part by his numerous attacks on protesting teachers, the Bevin campaign has some hurdles to overcome by claiming education has been a top priority for the administration.
Davis Paine, the governor’s campaign manager, pointed out, accurately, that during Bevin’s tenure teachers’ pensions have been fully funded, 100% of lottery funds are going toward education and per-pupil public education funding has risen significantly.
However, when it comes to winning teachers’ votes, Bevin's words may overwhelm his actions. Off-hand comments that border on bullying will likely be remembered at the ballot box more than his record. It was, after all, Bevin who attached the words “thug mentality” and “selfish” to groups of teachers protesting at the Capitol while school was in session.
Poised to pounce on his opponent’s missteps and scoop up the votes of Kentucky educators, Beshear announced Wednesday that he wants to give a $2,000 across-the-board pay raise to all state teachers and ensure that by 2022 no starting salary is less than $40,000.
Calling it the beginning of the end of the war on public education in Kentucky, Beshear said his plan — “Stop the Bullying, Raise the Pay” — would help alleviate the statewide teacher shortage. Yet, the proposal would cost roughly $84 million and have to be approved by the GOP-controlled legislature.
While Beshear claims the state can’t afford not to invest in public education, Paine called the plan “more unfunded campaign promises from a career politician.”
As expected, the Democratic candidate is looking to capitalize on the governor’s gaffes and hoping teachers will make their voices heard at the ballot box.