Governor should think before talking

Published 1:22 pm Friday, April 20, 2018

Matt Bevin is starting to remind me of that colorful uncle who sometimes goes off on tangents, often mixed with racist or sexist or borderline insane comments that you can just laugh off because you know he’s harmless and isn’t going to actually do any damage.

Bevin isn’t exactly harmless though as the governor of our great state, and he continues to embarrass himself with some of the angry comments he keeps tossing out about teachers who’ve made him mad because they didn’t give up their pension quietly to help him fund charter schools.

The governor reached yet another new low last week when asked his thoughts about hundreds of educators in Frankfort to protest his plans to make major changes and cuts in the pension system for state employees. Bevin told a reporter that he guaranteed children in Kentucky were sexually assaulted as a result of school closures around the state that kept the home.

It’s becoming clear that the governor has no filter and no one in his circle he trusts enough to keep him from saying something dumb. Perhaps he’s counting on the hard-core conservatives to keep him in office no matter how crazy he sounds, but you’d think the Republican Party would demand a few more checks and balances to keep Bevin from continuing to embarrass himself and his administration.

The logic of children being sexually abused because school is closed and parents are unable to afford a babysitter is flawed in so many ways it’s hard to know where to start. It’s like putting two and two together and coming up with nine. I’ve been trying to figure out how many sexual predators the governor knows or who has heard about who roam around communities waiting for school to be called off so they can attack. Does this happen only in the spring during protests or is it also common during snow days, many much more predictable than Friday when many school officials had been discussing the possibility of school being called off for a week or more.

It’s become obvious that the governor is intent on trying to tear down public education, something that should have been clear when he made charter schools one of his major talking points in his campaign. Why so many educators voted for him still baffles me — clearly a case of people voting for a concept instead of their own best interests.

Instead of tax cuts that are targeted toward helping the upper 1 percent of the population on the income scale, the focus should be on raising the money needed to support public education, something that will benefit all our young people. Funneling money away through charter schools and tax cuts for the state’s larger corporations will only make like more difficult for the working class in Kentucky, including the teachers who are fighting to make sure state government fulfills its promises on retirement.

It appears the Republicans in the General Assembly could sense the mood of the public last week, overturning the governor’s vetoes on three key bills, including the state pension system that was the focus of the protests in Frankfort. Perhaps Bevin will eventually get the message that sometimes it’s better to stay quiet and count to 10 before making comments that will come back to haunt him.

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No quote coming from the General Assembly in this legislative session pleased me more than the one from Rep. Steven Rudy, a Republican from Paducah, published in Sunday’s Lexington Herald-Leader about a decision not to fund charter schools in Kentucky.

“We have to fund traditional public education first,” Rudy said. “Should there be a big windfall, we would probably look at it again.”

The governor’s promotion of charter schools and criticism of public school educators at every opportunity, while trying to cut their pension in the process, made it clear that public education was under attack by this administration. Some have theorized Bevin was working to help some of his supporters in the charter school business benefit from the legislation.

Whatever the reasoning, diverting money away from public education never sounds like a good idea to me.

Some seem to want to take the government out of the business of education and look for every opportunity to downgrade public education and try to tear it apart with ideas such charter schools. If a school is struggling the odds are it’s in a poor area with challenges that go well beyond just the education process. Sometimes schools will have issues with students who don’t care about education and do whatever they can to disrupt the education process. Public schools, however, must try to educate everyone, whether they want it or not. When schools outside public education can cherrypick the best and brightest students it should be no surprise if they do well. The odds are stacked in their favor.

The concept of allowing students to “escape” struggling schools never made any sense to me. Any school that students need to escape should not be educating anyone and should either be closed, revamped or allowed to try those “innovative ideas” touted by charter school advocates.