Cameron advocates higher starting pay for Kentucky teachers

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Republican Daniel Cameron said Wednesday that he will push to raise starting pay for Kentucky teachers and reduce their administrative paperwork if he’s elected governor.

Rolling out the framework of his education plan, Cameron promoted “parents’ rights” and plunged into culture war issues that conservatives are pushing to the forefront of education policy debates.

Cameron pledged to stop any statewide effort to promote “any curriculum or policy that encourages the teaching of woke ideologies” in public K-12 schools, his campaign news release said.

Cameron, who is Kentucky’s attorney general, is among a dozen candidates vying for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in the state’s May primary. Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear is seeking reelection this year in the Republican-trending Bluegrass State.

Cameron laid out his plan for teachers’ pay — an issue that Beshear has made a priority.

“In my first budget I will propose legislation that raises the starting pay for teachers and ensures that no teacher’s salary is below the new starting-pay benchmark,” Cameron said.

Cameron also said he would propose giving a stipend to every Kentucky teacher to help offset the personal expenses they incur when purchasing school supplies.

Beshear has consistently made improved teacher pay a policy priority since his successful run for governor in 2019. He’s now pushing for a 5% pay raise for teachers and other public school employees to help overcome a shortage of classroom educators.

It was the second straight day that a leading Republican had staked out a position similar to the Democratic governor.

On Tuesday, another GOP gubernatorial candidate, Ryan Quarles, announced his support for legalizing medical marijuana in Kentucky — another proposal that Beshear has championed. Quarles, the state’s agriculture commissioner, called it an “access to care issue for many Kentuckians.”

Democrats said the two prominent Republicans were following Beshear’s lead on key issues.

“In the last two days, two Republican candidates for governor have come out in support of major planks of Governor Beshear’s agenda,” state Democratic Party Executive Director Sebastian Kitchen said in a statement. “Thankfully, we already have a governor who is fighting for our public schools, supporting those battling chronic medical conditions.”

On another education issue, Cameron said he would strive to reduce teachers’ administrative paperwork, saying that “bureaucrats have made teachers’ jobs harder.”

“Our teachers should be focused on teaching, not red tape,” he said.

Cameron spoke out against the teaching of critical race theory and “woke ideologies.”

“Students should go to school to learn the skills necessary to be productive citizens, not to distrust or fear their classmates because of the color of their skin or to have identity politics forced on them,” said Cameron, who is Black.

Critical race theory is an academic framework that examines how racism has shaped public policy and institutions.

Cameron’s release didn’t specify or clearly define what he considers to be “woke ideologies.”

Asked last week how he would define “woke,” Beshear told reporters: “Woke is apparently the new name calling that is used against, I guess, anyone who disagrees with the person using it. It’s unfortunate. It’s an attempt to create, I guess, a ‘them versus us’ and it doesn’t help.”

Cameron said his education plan would put parents, students and teachers “ahead of any ideology or radical influence.”

“We have been told we need to make a choice between supporting our teachers and giving parents a say in their children’s education,” he said. “That does not have to be the case, and, in my administration, that will end.”

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