Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Williams, Galbraith agree on need for change in Kentucky schools; Beshear skips KET forum

By Rachel Bryant, Sara Burton, Chris Craig and Lauren Forsythe
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Two of the three candidates running for governor met Monday night at KET to discuss how they would solve Kentucky’s education issues if elected. There was one word that Republican David Williams and independent Gatewood Galbraith agreed goes with education — reform.

Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, named this year's “greatest education governor” by the National Education Association, the major teachers' union, did not attend the forum. Williams said the support of the Jefferson County Teachers Association, an NEA affiliate, got the governor this title.

Galbraith and Williams agreed that none of the bills passed during Beshear’s term have really helped the Kentucky education system. Galbraith, a Lexington lawyer, said Williams, the president of the state Senate, has not had such a positive influence when it comes to education.

The two agreed on many aspects of the education debate, such as the need for charter schools and integration of technology at home.

Galbraith wants to give a laptop or an iPad to every eighth grader, saying buses will be able to stay off the roads on snowy days, and it would “enrich the education environment in the house tenfold.” He said technology would not only let the children learn from home, but the parents as well.

Galbraith said the state should give $5,000 "for books, tuition and fees for those going on to higher education” from high school, including cosmetology and truck driving schools.

He estimated the annual cost for the laptops and vouchers to be $24 million and $350 million, respectively, and said he could pay for his programs from the $2 billion that is paid to companies to do state work each year, as well as reforming the tax system. “We can’t afford not to do it,” he said.

Williams said, “The personal service contracts and sweetheart deals are out of control.” He warned that Kentucky has serious financial problems and education will be hurt if the inefficiencies are not fixed.

Williams called for "a career path program,” which he said would help young students prepare for the workforce and equip them with the three skills Williams sees necessary to succeed: math, science and reading.

Williams' plan for education is intertwined with eliminating the state income tax, allowing county-by-county "right to work" laws, and accepting federal aid for education if it is on Kentucky’s terms.

Both candidates rallied for small-town-style education and tried to humanize themselves by bringing up their mothers, who were teachers. Williams defended his legislation for neighborhood schools, saying that when he grew up in Burkesville there was no school segregation.

The forum can be watched on the KET website, here. All three candidates, including Beshear, say they will attend a debate at KET on Halloween, Oct. 31, at 8 p.m.

Welcome to Covering the Governor's Race, and more

Covering the Governor's Race is the title of a course taught in the 2011 fall semester in the School of Journalism and Telecommunications at the University of Kentucky. The students of Associate Extension Professor Al Cross are also covering some of the other statewide races on the Nov. 8 ballot.