Saying that "public education is under attack," a Lexington man who works as a Woodford County Middle School teacher on Tuesday announced that he is running for a seat on the Fayette County Public Schools board.
"Public education is the heartbeat of our community," Tyler Murphy, 30, said. "It's what creates opportunities, breaks down barriers and inspires lifelong learning. But as we know public education is under attack here in Kentucky and across the country which is why its important we elect advocates at every level who will fight for public school children and the future they deserve."
Murphy said it is a critical moment for public education in Kentucky. In protests locally and at the state Capitol in Frankfort in recent weeks, Kentucky teachers have fought to protect their pensions and the state budget for K-12 schools. They have maintained that they and public education are under attack by Gov. Matt Bevin, who has openly criticized their activism.
Murphy is running for the school board's 2nd District seat, which includes northern Fayette County. In February, after seven years on the Fayette County Public Schools Board, Doug Barnett said he would not seek re-election when his term ends this year. Psychologist Shambra Mulder was the first to announce she’ll run for the 2nd District seat in the Nov. 6 General Election.
Barnett, an attorney, has represented the 2nd District on the board since 2010.
Murphy said, if elected, he would be the only working public school teacher on the Fayette County school board.
Under state law, a teacher cannot run for school board in the district where they are employed. But Kentucky School Boards Association officials said Tuesday that it is not unprecedented for an educator who works for one district to serve on the school board of another district. A 1990 Attorney General's opinion said a "teacher employed by a school board of a district where the teacher does not reside is not prohibited from serving as a member of a school board of a different district where the teacher does reside."
Murphy said he made his first run for public office in 2012 when he made an unsuccessful bid for a seat as state representative from Greenup County. He said in the summer of 2008, he was elected a National Delegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver and in Greenup County was elected the youngest county political party chair in the state of Kentucky in 2011.
He first worked in the Russell Independent district in 2010. A Transylvania University graduate, he moved back to Lexington in 2012 and began commuting to work as a teacher in Nelson County and then in 2013 went to work in Woodford County. He now teaches 8th grade history, civics, and government. Murphy said he serves as a Kentucky Education Association representative for his school and a teacher representative at Woodford Middle's Site Based Decision Making Council.
"Are we doing everything that we can to make sure that we defend public education and make sure people understand the impact that charter schools would have on our own district and community and how devastating that would be?" he said.
Under a law passed by the Kentucky General Assembly last year, charter schools were approved for the first time and local school boards will have to decide whether to accept or deny applications from people who want to open them.
On his website, Murphy said as a teacher, "I understand the increasingly meager resources provided for schools and the need for innovative approaches to do more with less. "
In addition to the candidates in the second district, Stephanie Spires, who was appointed to the 4th district seat early last year after Amanda Ferguson’s resignation in 2016, is running for that seat in the November election. The Fourth District includes an area south of Main Street and east of South Broadway.
The deadline for filing for the school board seats is Aug. 14.