Kentucky lieutenant governor touts public education in officially rejoining Democratic ticket

Kentucky Lt Gov Jacqueline Coleman

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Gov. Andy Beshear has proven his commitment to running an education-first administration in Kentucky, Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman said Tuesday as she officially rejoined the Democratic ticket in the duo’s bid for a second term.

Coleman, who spent years as a teacher and school administrator, touted the Beshear administration’s record of pushing for teacher pay raises and opposing efforts that she said would benefit private schools at the expense of public schools. Coleman credited support from teachers as a crucial factor in Beshear’s narrow victory over Republican incumbent Matt Bevin in the 2019 governor’s race.

“I believe that now that teachers are reminded what it feels like to have a governor that’s got their back, they’re going to show up even more for Gov. Beshear and myself in 2023,” Coleman said. “Because we’ve, time and again, proven that we’re committed to being an education-first administration.”

Beshear had previously recommitted to Coleman as his running mate. Coleman sealed that partnership for the November election by submitting paperwork in the secretary of state’s office. It came as rival Daniel Cameron, the Republican gubernatorial nominee, prepared to reveal his running mate.

Cameron, the state’s attorney general, will announce his choice for lieutenant governor on Wednesday, his campaign said. Cameron and his new running mate will campaign together across the state this week.

On Tuesday, Coleman played up her ties to education as she officially rejoined the ticket with Beshear. She was flanked by several of her teachers, crediting them with making a difference in her life.

“I’ve spent my life in the classroom,” Coleman said. “I know how hard our teachers work. We depend on our schools to prepare the next generation of Kentuckians to compete in the global economy. But the politicians in Frankfort have proven they’re not willing to pay our teachers a competitive wage.”

Kentucky’s GOP-led legislature has generally followed its own course in setting education policies. Lawmakers funded full-day kindergarten and poured money into teacher pensions and infrastructure. They increased the state’s main funding formula, but the amount was considerably less than what Beshear proposed.

Lawmakers rejected the governor’s proposal to fund pre-K for every 4-year-old in Kentucky. And they left it up to local school districts to decide whether to use additional state funding to provide higher pay to teachers and other school staff.

The governor says considerably more needs to be done. Beshear has vowed to renew his push for another pay raise for teachers, saying Kentucky lags behind most states in teacher salaries. And he’s said he would include funding for universal pre-K in his next budget plan if he wins a second term.

In 2019, Bevin had a running feud with teachers who opposed his efforts to revamp the state’s underfunded public pension systems. Now, Democrats are trying to tie Cameron to Bevin, but Cameron is openly courting teachers. The Republican nominee has said he would push to raise starting pay for teachers and reduce their administrative paperwork if he’s elected governor.

Coleman linked Cameron to GOP-supported school choice proposals. In late 2022, Kentucky’s Supreme Court struck down a Republican initiative to award tax credits for donations supporting private school tuition — a program that opponents said would have diverted money from public schools. Lawmakers overrode Beshear’s veto of the measure.

“Kentucky shouldn’t have politicians who support putting our tax dollars in private schools that are unaccountable to the public,” Coleman said.

Coleman also promoted Beshear’s economic record, an issue that’s become a cornerstone of his reelection bid. Kentucky has posted record economic development numbers and historically low unemployment rates during Beshear’s term. His administration reeled in projects tied to the electric vehicle sector.

“There is no doubt Kentucky is a better place because of Gov. Beshear’s leadership,” Coleman said. “We’re creating the jobs of the future in every part of our state, not just the biggest cities, at a record pace.”

Besides her role as a public education advocate, Coleman has focused on rural economic development, adult learning and student mental health initiatives during her term.