A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Jacqueline Coleman: It’s time to invest in our future and transformational change for all Kentuckians

The Beshear-Coleman administration is, and always will be, education first. Education is the key to unlocking transformational change for all Kentuckians. Education breaks cycles of poverty and creates new cycles of success. Education is how we prepare our workforce for the jobs of the future. Education is how Kentucky competes in a global economy.

In the past three years, private companies have invested a record $21 billion in our state. This will create more than 40,000 new, good-paying jobs, and we must have a workforce that is up to the challenge.

Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman

The only way to capitalize on this opportunity is by building the best education system we can. As I like to say, the future of our economy is in our classrooms today, being led by Kentucky’s original job creators: our teachers. Our schools, however, are in or are nearing crisis. As a former teacher myself, I watched this crisis develop during my time in the classroom. Our public schools have nearly 11,000 teaching vacancies. This is due to denied pay raises, lack of resources, an unrealistic workload and constant criticism.

As a state, and especially as leaders, we can respond and find a solution by rolling up our sleeves and getting to work.

Now is the time to invest in our education system, and Governor Beshear and I are taking action. Our Education First Plan is ambitious, and it meets the moment. Here are the core tenets of our plan.

Raise teacher and staff pay. Since taking office in 2019, Gov. Beshear has included a pay raise for all teachers in every budget he has proposed. Each time, however, it was removed by the General Assembly. The result is that Kentucky now ranks 44th in the nation in teacher pay. It is time to invest in the people who care for our children. Our plan includes a 5% raise for all school employees.

Fund universal pre-K. A sad truth in education is that, if a student shows up to kindergarten behind, chances are they will stay behind throughout their education. Tragically, 62% of our kindergarteners show up on their first day already behind. By funding pre-K for every child in Kentucky, we give them a better chance to reach their educational goals. This will also increase our workforce participation, especially among women, and save families thousands of dollars per year on child care.

Launch a loan forgiveness program. Our plan includes for educators a $3,000 annual award of loan forgiveness for each year of employment in a Kentucky public school. This will increase teacher retention rates and encourage them to seek advanced degrees.

Restore pensions. In March 2021, the General Assembly overrode Gov. Beshear’s veto, leaving new teachers without a traditional defined benefits plan. This cut lowered teacher pay even further by forcing them to pay more into their retirements, for less of a return.

Restore funding for textbooks and professional development. If we expect our teachers to be highly trained and educated, we must provide them with the resources they need.

Support social and mental health. The mental health of our students is as important as their physical health. Our plan is to create eight regional Social Emotional Learning Institutes that will support educators on how to best help our students with their mental health.

I love visiting our schools. Honestly, it is one of the best parts of my job. I am blown away with the talent, empathy and grit of Kentucky’s students and our educators. Our goal as parents and leaders is to leave the world a better place for them. Our Education First Plan will go a long way toward providing every student, regardless of their zip code, a world-class education and ensure they have a bright future.

Jaqueline Coleman is Kentucky’s 58th lieutenant governor.

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One Comment

  1. Lorrie Miller Hill says:

    The key to moving the Commonwealth forward is improving the availability of quality education for all Kentuckians. It’s heartbreaking to watch people profit off the backs of the uneducated.

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