Editor note: Student names have been withheld to protect privacy. This piece represents the views and opinions of the writer, not necessarily those of The New Edu or The Kentucky Student Voice Team..
On November 7th, Kentuckians are voting for Kentucky’s new governor. However, my question is: How do the two gubernatorial candidates plan to improve the education of Kentucky students? More importantly, what do students have to say about this? I gave students a run-down of each candidate's education policy and then asked which of our possible governors they believed would better serve Kentucky’s education system–Andy Beshear or Daniel Cameron?
Andy Beshear is Kentucky’s current governor, and he is running for re-election. Beshear offers his “Education First'' plan. Reporting from The Courier Journal emphasizes that Beshear’s budget proposal focuses on items like increased funding, raising teacher and staff salaries, and universal pre-K. Beshear proposes an 11% pay increase for school employees across the board, including teachers, bus drivers, and cafeteria workers. Beshear suggests investing $1.1 billion over the next 2 years toward this pay raise. According to reporting by Louisville Public Media, Beshear has advocated for similar plans in the past, including raises, though the publication notes "GOP leaders largely eschewed the $200 million plan." Beshear's campaign plan further calls for funding for textbooks and professional development, as well as mental health education and support. “Education First” brings forward the underfunding of Kentucky schools, and proposes solutions.
Daniel Cameron’s plan, called the “Cameron Catch Up Plan,” focuses on “catching up” Kentucky students to improve “learning loss” from the pandemic. According to The Kentucky Lantern, in an effort to make up for educational opportunities lost during COVID-19, Cameron proposes a tutoring program that includes summer breaks and after school time. Teachers who choose to participate in such programs would receive a “healthy stipend.” Cameron’s plan also includes a focus on “restoring classroom discipline,” and includes introducing more school resource officers (SROs). Cameron says he wants to address the issue of absence in school. As governor and according to a memo on his campaign website, Cameron says he wants to work with districts to assist students who are “chronically truant,”. Under his plan, Cameron would raise pay for teachers annually, and not allow their pay to decrease.
Given this information, I asked students which policies favor Kentucky students more, and why.
Responses have been lightly edited to provide clarity.
“Andy Beshear’s plan lays out the informative outline of education being put first,” said a 9th grader in Daviess County. The student brings our attention to the importance of GEDs, explaining that some students look to GEDs for opportunities: “Students…often look to the GEDS to be able to develop the opportunity to go to college.”
The student also stated that helping teachers with needed resources is important. “Beshear providing schools with money around Kentucky gives the opportunity for school districts to offer specific programs and funding/financial terms,” they said.
This student said Andy Beshear favors Kentucky students. However, another 9th grader, also from Daviess County, says Daniel Cameron’s plan would be more effective for students.“Catch Up favors Kentucky students more because the policy also helps teachers, which will help them teach better; that would help kids learn better,” they said.
A 12th grader from Mercer County agrees. “Daniel Cameron seems to have a more favorable policy,” said the student.“Although I like Andy Beshear, Cameron seems to have a great idea of a policy to enforce for better education.”
However, another Kentucky student from Fayette County said “at the end of the day, I think Andy Beshear’s Education First policy has the potential to benefit a lot more Kentuckians. By making the GED free, the policy lifts many socioeconomic barriers.”
This student explained that addressing the teacher shortage should be a priority, but they are “wary as to what exactly that means, whether it is raising pay or allocating funds differently.”
“I’m not sure exactly how Beshear plans to implement this [addressing the teacher shortage], but I do not think Cameron’s plan of increasing classroom “discipline” is something that can be measured,” the student said, adding, “I also wonder if the 16 week tutoring program might just be a bandaid over a bigger issue.”
Today is Election Day, and education is a pressing issue in this election. The Courier Journal brings up an interesting point: Our candidates’ platforms have brought focus to the teachers of Kentucky. Is there a way our Kentucky governor could call attention to the needs of both teachers and students? Education relies on students and educators. How can we, as a commonwealth, work together to improve Kentucky education?