LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear and local school districts are exploring ways to raise teacher salaries in the state.

Beshear wants to give every public school teacher in Kentucky a 5% raise and fund universal pre-K. 

It is all part of the Education First Plan. Beshear said it could be funded by the state's projected more than $1.3 billion surplus. Even if the state approves universal pre-K and teacher raises, the governor said the surplus would still be the third-largest in the commonwealth's history.

"Can't we take some of that money and pay teachers closer to what they're worthy?" Beshear asked during Thursday's Team Kentucky Update.

Separate from the state, teachers at Jefferson County Public Schools could also see an additional pay increase. 

JCPS and the district's largest teachers' union, Jefferson County Teachers Association, have reached a tentative agreement that includes a 5% raise, plus steps, for the 2023-24 school year, with additional raises for the following two years of the extension to be negotiated.

The 5% raise would be in addition to the 4% increase approved by the JCPS Board of Education in June.  That adds up to a 9% increase for all JCPS teachers in the 2023-2024 school year.

"We wanted to do this now, very early, because we know there's a teacher shortage," said JCTA President Brent McKim. "If we can get this pay raise, that is very significant, now that will help the district recruit teachers and keep teachers, and that's good for kids." 

McKim said the district budget will allow for an additional increase because of the Kentucky Supreme Court's decision that sided with JCPS in a challenge to increase property tax rates.

"There is some additional tax revenue that the district has available in an ongoing way that makes this possible," he said.

If approved, it will make the starting salary for a JCPS teacher $47,000. In addition, if a teacher works in a school under the designated "Choice Zone," an area identified as JCPS high-needs schools, they qualify for an additional $8,000 bonus.

JCTA will vote on the agreement next week, and will need board approval for it to become official.

"People are appreciative of this significant pay raise," said McKim.

In Oldham County, the conversations to increase teachers salaries are still in the early stages. The district is exploring ideas on how to create additional revenue to pay teachers more. One of the possibilities discussed would be to cut staff positions.

In a statement to WDRB News, the district's spokesperson said:

"Our Board of Education has asked us to look at ways to sustain the raises we provided last year and look at ways to do more. We are diligently looking at revenues and expenses with the goal of increasing staff salaries and are in the process of exploring all avenues to meet those goals. Increasing the student/teacher ratio is just one idea that was brought to the table to consider. We are not ready to bring any ideas to the Board at this time."

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