LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Putting more money in teacher's pockets and teaching Kentucky's youngest learners. It is part of Gov. Andy Beshear's multimillion-dollar Education First plan.
Beshear, along with Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio, JCPS teachers, Louisville Deputy Mayor Barbara Sexton Smith, and Lt. Governor Jacqueline Coleman, were at Eastern High School in Louisville to promote the plan on Wednesday.
It would fund a 5% raise for all school staff, create and fund universal pre-k, invest in social and mental health services, provide student loan forgiveness for teachers, and provide further training and materials.
Governor Beshear here at Eastern High School to talk about his Education First plan. pic.twitter.com/WEDECsYMH4— Katrina Nickell WDRB (@knickelltv) January 18, 2023
Beshear said it is only the stepping stone to recruit and retain teachers in the commonwealth, which will help students.
Southern High School teacher Emilie McKiernan Blanton knows how shortages effect her as a teacher.
"Last school year, I subbed over 80 times, and that was my students having learning loss because I had to go watch another teacher's classroom," McKiernan Blanton said.
A mother of two, also knows how shortages feel as a parent.
"I know what it looks like to look at your child's schedule and see vacancy three instead of a teacher's name," she said.
The problems described by McKiernan Blanton are ones Beshear hopes to fix.
"This is a competition for talent, there is no doubt about that, and so we have to ensure that if we are going to go out and be competitive in this competition, we must pay our teachers what they deserve," Pollio said.
Beshear said Kentucky has more than 11,000 vacancies.
"Trust me, it's not political," he said. "If you need to know that, just look across the river at Gov. Eric Holcomb, a Republican, Governor of Indiana, is pushing to increase teacher pay."
However, it may become political in Kentucky. To pass Education First this year, Beshear would need the Republican-controlled legislature to reopen the state budget. But Republican lawmakers have said previously they don't plan to open the budget.
Beshear said his plan would cost around $171 million.
"We can do every single bit of what's in this plan and still have one of the largest budget surpluses in state history," Beshear said.
When it comes to money, McKiernan Blanton said this will help many teachers keep up with today's cost of living.
"This is not just a paycheck for us, but this calling does not pay my bills, especially when LG&E bills look like a car payment," McKiernan Blanton said.
During its last legislative session, lawmakers allocated money for school districts to make their own decisions on raises. With that, JCPS teachers received a 4% raise, and a 5% raise a few months later.
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