GOP gubernatorial nominee Daniel Cameron and his wife Makenze during his election party on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, at the Galt House in Louisville. (Austin Anthony / for the Kentucky Lantern)
Republican gubernatorial candidate Daniel Cameron is calling for tutoring students outside of school hours and increasing starting teacher pay to make up for the drop in Kentucky students’ performance that he blamed on school closures and virtual learning during the coronavirus pandemic.
The attorney general released the “Cameron Catch-up” plan Tuesday with press conferences in Lexington and Louisville.
Among his policies, Cameron wants to increase new teachers’ starting base rate pay to $41,500. According to data from the Kentucky Department of Education, a teacher with a Rank 1 certificate and no experience had a minimum salary of $36,558 for the 2022-23 school year. He also wants to fund a tutoring program for students outside of regular school hours to make up for learning loss.
Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, who is running for reelection, is scheduled to release his education budget proposal for the next legislative session on Wednesday.
In his remarks, Cameron attempted to win Kentucky educators, a group that strongly backed Beshear’s election against former Republican Gov. Matt Bevin. Ahead of the 2019 election, Bevin said some students likely suffered child abuse while teachers were on strike at the Capitol. Kentucky education groups also vehemently opposed a pension reform bill backed by the Bevin administration. It started as a “sewer bill” and would have prevented future teachers from receiving defined benefit pensions.
Directing his comments to school administrators and teachers, Cameron said his plans are offered with a “spirit of humility” and wants educators to have a new relationship with Republicans.
“I know that you might have some apprehensions about me — or for that matter — any Republican nominee for governor,” Cameron said. “So, let me just simply say: I’m sorry. Sorry for any comments that have made you feel less than value, or have led you to have serious misgivings about the Republican Party on the topic of education.”
Cameron, whose wife Makenze taught in Oldham County Schools, said his administration will “implement the largest expansion of reading and math instruction in the history of the Commonwealth.” Cameron estimated his policies will cost around $100 million.
He also wants to fund a 16-week tutoring program for math and reading instruction to take place during summer breaks and after school. For this, he also will ask the Republican-led General Assembly to fund bonuses for teachers who choose to participate as a tutoring program instructor and wants to work with state universities to recruit students to teach in the program as well as recruit other professionals as tutors.
Beshear’s running mate, Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman, who is a former teacher and school administrator, criticized Cameron’s plan in a statement issued by the Kentucky Democratic Party.
“Daniel Cameron has spent his time in office attacking our teachers and advocating to weaken our public schools with vouchers that would send public tax dollars to private schools,” she said. “The plan he rolled out doesn’t even offer raises to teachers in the classroom today, and it’s not fooling anybody.“
Other points of Cameron’s education plan are:
- Adding a reading interventionist to every school district
- Ensuring districts are complying with state laws that require school resource officers
- Introducing a stipend for student teaching
- Giving superintendents a discretionary fund to pay experienced teachers
- Recruiting former teachers back to the profession and new mid-career individuals
The Kentucky Department of Education in October released school report cards based on student assessments for the 2021-22 school year. At the time, Education Commissioner Jason Glass said in a statement that “the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on our students and our schools as they continue to recover from the interrupted learning that occurred over the past two years.”
The results showed that 45% of Kentucky elementary students were proficient or distinguished in reading while 38% were proficient or distinguished in math. At the middle school level, 43% of all students were proficient or distinguished in reading and 37% in math. The results showed that 44% of high school students were proficient or distinguished in reading and 36% were proficient or distinguished in math.
In the 2018-19 school year, assessments showed that 54.6% of all elementary school students, 59.6% of middle school students and 44.5%% of high school students were either proficient or distinguished in reading. In math, 48.6% of elementary school students, 46.4% of middle school students and 35.3% of high school students were proficient or distinguished.
During the primary election, Cameron released an education plan that he said aimed to remove politics from education. He vowed to not appoint members to the Kentucky Board of Education who “favor bureaucracy and ‘woke’ virtue-signaling over the success of our kids.” He did not mention this at the Louisville press conference.
He did take the opportunity to criticize Beshear over his stance on transgender youth, which has become a recurring theme in his campaign. He said Beshear had undermined the “foundational pillars” such as “protecting the family unit” and “the innocence of our youth” when he vetoed a bill that prevented trans girls from playing in girls’ sports.
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