Governor signs five bills that put education first
FRANKFORT, Ky. (March 24, 2021) – On Wednesday, Gov. Andy Beshear, a proud graduate of Kentucky public schools, vetoed two bills that hurt educators and undermine public education.
He also signed five bills that put public education first in Kentucky.
“Education is how we provide better lives for all Kentuckians. It is how we build up a highly skilled workforce so we can quit chasing the jobs of the past and attract the investments and companies that are creating the well-paying jobs of the future,” said Gov. Beshear. “Education is how we begin to address the deep historic inequities that have robbed too many Kentuckians of the opportunities they deserve.”
The Governor vetoed two bills that harm public education:
“These measures represent a direct attack that would significantly weaken our public education system in Kentucky,” said Gov. Beshear.
House Bill 258
The Governor does not support House Bill 258, because it would cut retirement benefits for new teachers, harming the commonwealth’s ability to attract and retain educators.
This measure comes at the same time the General Assembly has cut more than $70 million the Governor’s proposed budget would provide to help support health insurance benefits for educators’ families. The General Assembly also cut raises for school employees that were included in the Governor’s budget.
“I have continued to support raises and more benefits for our teachers because of educators like Laura Hartke, who teach during the day and drive an Uber in the evening and on the weekends to make ends meet,” said Gov. Beshear. “The lack of support for our educators is leading to fewer and fewer college students choosing teaching. This is not OK. If the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency has taught us anything, it is the vital role our educators play in the lives of our children and in our economy.”
House Bill 563
The Governor does not support House Bill 563 (HB 563), which would greatly harm public education in Kentucky by taking money away from public schools and sending it to unaccountable private organizations with little oversight. HB 563 would also drain as much as $25 million from public education.
This measure would establish private educational institutions that would decide how to spend public money and could use up to 10% of these public funds on their own employee salaries, benefits and expenses.
“This measure is a handout to wealthy donors. They would receive tax benefits even larger than charitable donation deductions and could even profit by transferring securities to the private educational institutions to avoid capital gains taxes,” said Gov. Beshear. “HB 563 would lead to the same kinds of funding disparities that the Kentucky Supreme Court held was unconstitutional in Rose v. Council for Better Education in 1989.”
“As the highest elected teacher in Kentucky, it is my professional responsibility to support Kentucky’s public schools. As the mom of a 1-year-old, it is my personal duty,” said Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman. “My daughter just learned how to walk. By the time she walks into her kindergarten classroom for the first time, the damage of HB 563 would already be done. Hundreds of millions of public tax dollars that could have gone to strengthening our classrooms and supporting the people in them would have been diverted to private shadow organizations that are unaccountable to Kentuckians.”
“The legislature needs to slow down and approach this enormously consequential issue more thoughtfully and with greater transparency. Kentuckians deserve quality public policy when it comes to our kids and our schools, and HB 563 is not it,” said Dr. Jason Glass, commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Education.
“Some may ask why we are fighting so hard against this bill. It’s because we work every day with students and families from every facet of society and we believe fundamentally that public education is an inalienable right of those folks we represent,” said Dr. Jim Flynn, executive director of the Kentucky Association for School Superintendents. “Therefore, the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents opposes the privatization of public funds for education through tax credits for educational opportunity accounts.”
“This bill is bad education policy, bad fiscal policy and bad public policy,” said Eddie Campbell, middle and high school music teacher and president of the Kentucky Education Association. “Our students and our parents should know that the educator working with them is highly-trained and certified. This bill also gives away $25 million to wealthy and corporate donors and tax credits at the expense of all public services, including our public schools.”
Multiple community leaders shared video messages thanking the Governor for vetoing HB 563, including:
- Dr. Jeni Bolander, a teacher and member of KY 120 United;
- Dr. Rhonda Caldwell, executive director of the Kentucky Association of School Administrators;
- Brent McKim, high school science teacher and elected president of the Jefferson County Teachers Association; and
- Arivumani Srivastava, high school junior at the Gatton Academy at Western Kentucky University from Bowling Green and member of the Kentucky Student Voice Team.
The Governor signed the following bills today that protect Kentucky students’ health and secure more pathways for them to pursue their goals:
House Bill 158
House Bill 158 (HB 158) invests in Kentucky students by supporting the state’s only four-year aviation professional pilot degree program. It increases cooperation between the Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) and local air board, giving students more opportunities to learn.
“Kentucky is training a workforce that will not just be ready for the future, but will help lead our nation into the future,” said Gov. Beshear. “That’s why I’m proud this bill also helps us prepare for the state-of-the-art flight training center planned for construction at the Central Kentucky Regional Airport. HB 158 is great news for EKU and for the entire commonwealth.”
Senate Bill 101
Senate Bill 101 will make career and technical education more responsive to stakeholders, with the enhanced ability to work with local industry to produce the kind of workers their community needs.
“Many local school districts and their communities want the flexibility that comes with managing their own career and technical education centers — but they are deterred by the potential funding loss,” said Gov. Beshear. “This legislation ensures a reliable funding stream for those districts that choose to convert their state-operated center to local control.”
The Governor said he would line item veto a portion of the executive branch budget to make this bill a reality.
Senate Bill 127
Having a rescue inhaler on site for students suffering from an asthma attack can mean the difference between life and death. Senate Bill 127 encourages schools to keep at least two rescue inhalers on hand.
“This bill mirrors what was done for students with life-threatening allergies eight years ago and applies it to asthma, which also can be a life-threatening condition,” said Gov. Beshear. “This is a minimal expense that can save one of our kids. I encourage our school leaders to follow this new guidance and take action.”
Senate Bill 128
The Supplemental School Year Program outlined in Senate Bill 128 will allow students the chance to enjoy the same high school experience they expected a year ago.
“The past year has been uniquely challenging, and while educators have done their best in these trying circumstances, the pandemic has deprived some students of priceless opportunities and memories,” said Gov. Beshear. “School districts who choose this Supplemental School Year option for their students also will have access to federal funds to remedy learning loss in creative ways and to help all students get back on track academically.”
Senate Bill 135
The Governor supports Senate Bill 135 (SB 135), which provides common-sense updates to ensure that state funding for higher education is distributed to campuses on a more sustainable basis.
It also supports efforts by colleges and universities to enroll and graduate more Kentuckians with a certificate or degree by 2030.
“My administration will always put education first, and I’m proud to support this bill that will help more of our students pursue their dreams and build a better Kentucky for us all,” said Gov. Beshear.
Dr. Aaron Thompson, president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, shared a video message in support of SB 135.
“Education is the key – the common denominator – to building the better Kentucky we want for all of our people. Supporting our educators and a strong public education system is how we serve all the commonwealth’s children equitably,” said Gov. Beshear.