Gov. Andy Beshear on Thursday laid out a plan to address declining test scores and teacher shortages.
After disappointing statewide test results and underwhelming state scores on the NAEP assessments, Beshear said it is time to act by increasing district employee pay, universal pre-K, increasing social-emotional education and providing incentives for teachers to stay in the classroom including restoring pensions and forgiving teachers’ student loans.
“It’s simple, folks. You can’t catch a child up on math if you don’t have a math teacher. Our teacher shortages are the result of not just the pandemic, but years of cutbacks that have left schools underfunded,” Beshear said.
The state has 11,000 teacher vacancies and 72 percent of the current teacher workforce is at risk of leaving their jobs – either because they have less than five years’ experience or more than 25 years.
Beshear was joined by Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman, Education Commissioner Jason Glass, Kentucky Board of Education Chair Lu Young and Representative Rachel Roberts, D-Newport. Rep. Killian Timoney, R-Lexington, had planned to attend but had a family emergency.
The plan includes:
A 5% raise for all district employees. The raise would be in addition to any board-approved raises this year.
- Universal pre-K for 4-year-olds
Restore funding for professional development, text books and other instructional materials
- Provide up to $3,000 per year of loan forgiveness to public school teachers
- Create eight regional institutes to train teachers on social-emotional learning and create two new grant programs to provide mental health services to teachers
- Restore the teacher’s pension system to eliminate the hybrid plan new teachers now enter.
Beshear’s plan relies mostly on whether the Republican super majority in the legislature agrees. Citing the state’s record surplus, Beshear, a Democrat, called on the General Assembly to open the budget in the upcoming session to fund the plan.
That may not be likely based on a statement issued after the press conference by the Republican Party of Kentucky.
“Our teachers and superintendents worked hard to navigate the difficulties of remote learning during COVID-19,” the statement said. “Despite his efforts to run away from his pandemic actions, students and parents will not forget the biggest contributor to learning loss in the Commonwealth of Kentucky: Gov. Andy Beshear.”