KDP chair blasts Repubs’ ‘appreciation’ of teachers Skip to content

KDP chair blasts Repubs’ ‘appreciation’ of teachers

Republican ‘appreciation’ of Kentucky teachers is hollow praise

3 min read

An op-ed by Colmon Elridge, chair of the KY Democratic Party

I was scrolling through social media recently when I came across a video message posted by the Kentucky House Republicans that caught me off guard. It’s not that it was particularly compelling or captivating — it was just a lie that would have been outright laughable had it not been so insulting.

The very same GOP lawmakers who were now expressing their admiration for Kentucky’s educators during Teacher Appreciation Week had, just a few weeks earlier, decided not to give them a raise. This is the very definition of gaslighting.

In December, Governor Andy Beshear released his Forward, Together budget proposal, which included an across-the-board 11% raise for educators in our state.

Because of the Governor’s stewardship of our economy, we could not only afford to give the teachers, custodians, bus drivers, and other professionals who are always there for our children the raises they deserve, but investing in our educators would go a long way to attract and retain those who have been pushed away by the vengeful actions of the legislative majority.

Republicans in the General Assembly didn’t want to pay educators their worth, even though we had the money to do so. They instead chose to leave them and Kentucky’s children behind.

A recent report paints a troublesome picture as to how dire the situation in Kentucky is when it comes to teacher pay. Our state just dropped from 40th to 41st nationwide in teacher salaries, with our average now at just over $56,000 — far below the national average of $69,544. For starting salaries, we’re 45th.

Those rankings aren’t just embarrassing; they are also the foundation of a glaring issue. How can we expect our Commonwealth to remain competitive when neighboring states like Indiana and Ohio are eating our lunch by paying their teachers more than we are? An 11% raise would have been a tremendous boost for local economies, especially since public schools are the largest employer in many Kentucky counties.

And if the numbers alone don’t convince you, go ahead and ask an educator in your community just how much a raise means to them. There are countless stories about the hardships and struggles that teachers have to endure just to provide a better life for their own families.

There’s Kevin Dailey — a history teacher at Ballyshannon Middle School and the 2024 Kentucky School Teacher of the Year — who has had to work multiple jobs to make ends meet.

Amber Sergeant — a teacher over at Woodford County High School — said it best: “If we truly value public education, then educators should never have to work two jobs just to support their family.”

No they shouldn’t, Amber.

It’s encouraging to see that some counties are starting to implement raises thanks to additional funding that was included in this year’s budget. But once again, Republican lawmakers want to pick and choose winners and losers in a moment when we should double down on supporting educators across every single one of our 120 counties. All of our educators deserve a boost to their salaries. It’s the only way for our state to truly move forward, together.

Other public servants — including state troopers and social workers — received a well-deserved raise under Governor Beshear and Lieutenant Governor Jacqueline Coleman. These pay bumps are addressing worker shortages and high turnover within both of their respective industries. So why did Kentucky’s educators not make the cut this time around?

It’s because teacher salaries are just one front in Republicans’ never-ending war against public schools. The Kentucky GOP is now doubling down on its mission to steal our tax dollars and send them to under-regulated and exclusive private schools, with a new measure on the ballot come fall.

This is nothing but Republicans’ latest attempt to prop up elite private schools while sucking public schools dry of the funding they need to offer a quality education. Sixty percent of counties across our Commonwealth lack certified private schools, including those in rural parts of the state. Just imagine what’s at stake for them.

As a father of four children who are products of Kentucky’s public schools, I am proud to join Kentuckians, parents, grandparents, and good neighbors who care deeply about every child — who won’t let Republicans destroy our state’s public schools and then demean the hard-working educators who give your kids their all.

Democrats know and understand that Kentucky’s students can only thrive if our schools do as well. This November, we’re going to make sure that remains the case.


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