Matt Bevin talks teacher pension, early childhood and charter sc - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Matt Bevin talks teacher pension, early childhood and charter schools at Louisville meeting

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Matt Bevin met with education leaders at JCPS on Tuesday (Photo by Toni Konz, WDRB News) Matt Bevin met with education leaders at JCPS on Tuesday (Photo by Toni Konz, WDRB News)
JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens greets Matt Bevin on Tuesday (Photo by Toni Konz, WDRB News) JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens greets Matt Bevin on Tuesday (Photo by Toni Konz, WDRB News)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- During a visit with education leaders in Louisville Wednesday, the Republican nominee for Kentucky governor talked about preschool, teacher pensions and charter schools.

Matt Bevin met with the group of about 20 educators and community officials at the Jefferson County Public Schools Van Hoose Education Center for over an hour, outlining some of his goals for education in the state.

"One of my biggest concerns is that we don't expect enough of our young people," Bevin said. "We dumb things down."

JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens said the district invited Bevin to speak to the group -- which included members of the Jefferson County Education Foundation, the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence and at one point, five members of the Jefferson County Board of Education.

The meeting was not advertised on the district's website and was not part of a formal school board meeting, rather more of an informal discussion on topics that are important to the community, Hargens said.

Bevin's opponent in the gubernatorial race, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway has also been invited to visit with the same group of education officials in Louisville.

During the meeting, Bevin spoke about a number of hot-button education issues. 

He reiterated an earlier stance that he doesn't believe the federal Head Start program is effective.

"We've put $170 billion plus into that program...are there smarter ways we could use those monies, more creative ways, ways that are designed to do the exact same thing," Bevin said. "Everybody wants the same result. Sometimes I think we recreate and reinvent things that are working but we don't look at things that are not working."

The comment drew the immediate ire of the Kentucky Democratic Party, which sent out a press release Tuesday afternoon saying Bevin "doubled down" on his opposition to early childhood education programs like Head Start.

"Bevin's views about early childhood education are not only inaccurate, they are offensive to Kentucky's teachers and students -- but at least he's telling the truth to this group about his opposition to these vital programs," said David Bergstein of the Kentucky Democratic Party.

But in an interview after the meeting with WDRB News, Bevin said he simply wants to ensure the government is "educating our young people to the maximum potential at the most affordable price possible."

"We need to look at public education dollars at every level -- from pre-kindergarten to post-secondary," he said. "That means if we are not getting the results we want at any of those levels, lets re-evaluate what we are doing and find better ways to accomplish the task."

Bevin also addressed his support of exploring the possibility of allowing charter schools in Kentucky.

"Truth be told, we have schools that are not working," he said. "They've not been working for some time. Kentucky, as a whole, we are not where we would like to be or where I believe we could be academically relatively to other states."

Bevin said he believes opponents to charter schools are "so resistant to the idea of it that we don't even want to talk about it."

"This is how we got into the (teacher) pension crisis, this is how we got into a whole lot of other things. Everybody wants to ignore it," Bevin said. "It needs to be addressed."

On the topic of the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System, which is currently underfunded, Bevin said he believes the state should "freeze the existing plans exactly as they are" and come up with a different solution, suggesting that Kentucky move to a defined contribution plan.

"We are playing a shell game making people believe that everything is good," he said. "And things are not good."

Reporter Antoinette Konz covers K-12 education for WDRB News. She can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.

Copyright 2015 by WDRB News. All rights reserved.

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