FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Calling for smaller class sizes and fewer standardized tests, Democrat Andy Beshear offered a public education plan Wednesday that he said sets him apart from his opponent in Kentucky’s governor’s race, incumbent Republican Gov. Matt Bevin.
Beshear said there’s no bigger contrast between the two candidates than their approach to education. The state attorney general’s plan also calls for expanding early childhood education, ending a teacher shortage and increasing mental health services for children.
The Democratic challenger vowed to not sign a budget bill unless it sufficiently funds education.
“We’re going to be the best administration for public education that this state has ever seen,” Beshear, the son of former two-term Gov. Steve Beshear, said outside a Frankfort school.
Beshear didn’t put a price tag on his plan or offer specifics about paying for his proposals.
“There are going to be hard choices and we’re going to have to make sacrifices elsewhere, but we’re going to fund public education,” he told reporters.
Bevin has criticized him for not offering details on paying for policy proposals.
Earlier in the campaign, Beshear proposed a $2,000 across-the-board pay raise for Kentucky’s public school teachers _ an incentive he said is needed to resolve a statewide teacher shortage.
Education has become a flashpoint between the bitter rivals leading up to the Nov. 5 election.
Bevin defends his record, saying he’s done more than his predecessors to support public education.
His campaign manager, Davis Paine, said Wednesday that teachers’ pensions have been fully funded and 100% of lottery funds have gone toward education during Bevin’s term. He said the governor is “committed to continuing to improve public education in Kentucky.”
Delving into his plan, Beshear said reducing class size is a “proven way to put our kids on a better path for success.” Rolling back “excessive” standardized testing, he said, would let teachers “spend less time on arbitrary checklists and more time” teaching.
Increasing access to pre-kindergarten is the “right thing to do morally and economically,” Beshear said.
The rivals differ on charter schools. Bevin supports them to give parents more choices in where to send their children. Beshear opposes them, saying they’ll divert funding from public schools.
Beshear and his running mate, educator Jacqueline Coleman, arrived at Wednesday’s event aboard a school bus with a group of supporters. Beshear said his campaign would cover all expenses from the event.
He also continued trying to capitalize on Bevin’s feud with teachers who opposed education and pension proposals backed by the governor.
“If any of our kids were on that bus going to school, we would not accept bullying,” he said. “We would not allow them to talk about their fellow students the way that Matt Bevin talks about our teachers.”
The governor has criticized teachers who used sick days to rally at Kentucky’s Capitol against proposals he supported. Some days, so many teachers rallied that some schools closed. In 2018, Bevin asserted without evidence that an unidentified child who had been left home alone somewhere in the state had been sexually assaulted on a day of mass school closings as teachers rallied. He apologized but then doubled down earlier this year, connecting a girl's shooting in Louisville with school closings caused by teacher protests.