Raising Salaries and Funding Pre-K at the Forefront of Beshear’s Agenda
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear is urging for greater investment in public education, emphasizing the need for higher pay for school employees and state-funded pre-K programs. With the upcoming legislative session, Beshear is determined to address the concerns of Kentuckians regarding their jobs, infrastructure, public schools, and community safety.
Priority Objectives: Salary Increases and State-Funded Pre-K
During his first term, Governor Beshear faced numerous policy conflicts with Republican lawmakers, but he also championed bipartisan bills, including the legalization of sports betting and medical marijuana, as well as expanding early voting. Looking ahead to the next legislative session starting in January, Beshear is placing significant emphasis on two key policy goals: substantial pay raises for school employees and state-funded pre-K.
Beshear’s proposal includes an 11% raise for teachers and all public school personnel, such as bus drivers, janitors, and cafeteria staff. According to the governor, this raise would be the largest in at least 40 years, aiming to make Kentucky more competitive with other states. Kentucky currently ranks 44th in average teacher starting pay and 40th in average teacher pay nationally. Beshear stressed that this issue transcends political lines and should be viewed as a public education matter.
Benefits for Rural Counties and Addressing Learning Loss
In a strategic move to garner support from rural GOP lawmakers, Beshear highlighted the importance of school districts as significant employers in rural Kentucky counties. He believes that an 11% pay raise would have a tremendous positive impact on local economies while also being the right thing to do.
Furthermore, Beshear is advocating for state-funded pre-K for all 4-year-olds in Kentucky, emphasizing its potential to address learning loss. The governor believes that many children fall behind because they enter kindergarten unprepared and are unable to catch up. By intervening early, Beshear aims to tackle this issue head-on.
Education Recovery Challenges in the Wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic
Learning loss resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic has been a significant concern within the education system. Beshear’s victorious campaign over Republican challenger Daniel Cameron in the November election underscored the importance of addressing this issue. While recent statewide test scores showed some improvement in Kentucky students’ performance, education officials acknowledge the need for continued efforts to return to pre-pandemic academic levels.
Moving Forward: Collaboration and Increased Support
Besides commending lawmakers for their efforts to support public education, Governor Beshear believes there is still more work to be done. The previous two-year budget allocated funds for full-day kindergarten, teacher pensions, and infrastructure. However, the amount provided through the state’s primary funding formula for K-12 schools, known as SEEK, fell short of Beshear’s proposed budget. As legislators prepare for the next biennial budget in 2024, Governor Beshear urges continued collaboration to maximize support for public education in Kentucky.