Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin took issue Monday with a new TV campaign ad by his Democratic opponent, Andy Beshear, that suggests Bevin has cut education funding so much that some schools might be forced to close.
“Imagine having just one school in your community and the lights are turned off forever,” says Jacqueline Coleman, Beshear’s running mate.
“That could happen with Gov. Bevin’s education cuts,” Beshear then says.
Bevin, at a campaign news conference in front of the Governor’s Mansion, called the ad “a scare tactic” and showed a video produced by his campaign that touted his record on education and pensions.
The main funding formula for K-12 schools has increased to a record high under Bevin, though those increases have not kept up with inflation, which was also true under former Gov. Steve Beshear, who is Andy Beshear’s father.
A spokesman for Beshear said he was referring to a 2018 budget proposal by Bevin that would have shifted costs for transportation and health insurance to local school districts and cut funding for textbooks. Lawmakers, though, reworked those plans dramatically before enacting a two-year state budget.
The campaign also cited Bevin’s illegal cuts to higher education and a proposal Bevin pushed that would have cut pension benefits for teachers. In addition, he said Bevin would take away already-scarce resources from public schools to fund vouchers for private schools.
The Bevin video claimed he was the first Kentucky governor to fully fund the state’s pension systems. That isn’t true, but he is the first governor to do so in the last two decades. He also said he is the first governor to use 100 percent of Kentucky Lottery proceeds for education, as politicians had originally promised decades ago.
The video said that after eight years of former Gov. Steve Beshear, the teachers’ pension fund had $8 billion in additional debt while the “Beshear administration systematically raided the pension fund and spent the money elsewhere in the budget.”
Asked why the Kentucky Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ group, supports Beshear instead of him in the Nov. 5 general election for governor, Bevin said it’s because the KEA is interested in power.
Beshear’s campaign said its TV ad “sets the record straight and holds this governor accountable for failing Kentucky families and trying to undermine public education.”
“Matt Bevin can’t run and hide from the disastrous record of bullying teachers, tearing down public education and trying to illegally cut pensions,” said Beshear campaign manager Eric Hyers. “Instead of holding wild and unhinged press conferences, this governor should explain why he spent last month insulting, investigating and threatening to fire teachers.”
Last month, the Bevin Administration claimed that more than 1,000 teachers broke the law by calling in sick while protesting pension legislation at the Capitol. The Courier Journal reported that his administration tried to use police surveillance footage to investigate educators.
Bevin also chided Beshear Monday for pledging to raise teacher salaries but not identifying where the money would come from to pay for the hikes.
Bevin ended the news conference with disparaging remarks about Courier Journal reporter Tom Loftus, a Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame inductee who is retiring at month’s end after an illustrious career of holding Kentucky politicians of both political parties accountable for their actions.
After Loftus asked Bevin about the impact of inflation on school funding, the governor accused Loftus of being negative and noted that his career is about to end.
“Go out with some of the integrity you came in with,” Bevin said.
Ironically, Loftus is seen in Bevin’s video describing the governor’s efforts to provide funding for pensions during an appearance on Kentucky Educational Television’s “Comment on Kentucky.”
“He’s making a really serious play here to get started on turning around the crisis in funding of Kentucky’s public pension programs,” Loftus said of Bevin on the TV show.