NEA Honors Greatest Education Governor
July 3, 2011
By John Rosales
Nearly 8,000 boisterous delegates attending the NEA 2011 Representative Assembly in Chicago cheered Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear as he accepted NEA’s America’s Greatest Education Governor Award, which honors state chief executives who have made critical strides that improve education and public schools.
NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said Gov. Beshear “talked the talk and walked the walk” in his unwavering support for Kentucky’s students and educators.
“He championed quality preschool programs — one of the best investments our country can make — as well as raising the dropout age in Kentucky to 18,” Van Roekel said. “And in the midst of budget cuts, he fought to preserve resources for K-12 education and the Commonwealth’s students and classrooms.”
Following a standing ovation and thunderous applause that filled the main meeting hall at McCormick Place Convention Center, Gov. Beshear spoke of the important investment a state can make in the education of its children.
“That's why I have fought hard to protect the basic funding for our classrooms despite nine rounds of budget cuts,” he said. “We are not going to balance the budget on the backs of our school children . . . our nation’s most valuable asset."
While spending was slashed 30 percent in many of Kentucky’s cabinet agencies, he said, “one thing we have not and will not cut is our classroom support for classroom teachers.”
During Gov. Beshear’s term, Kentucky has moved into the top 20 in the United States in fourth-grade and eighth-grade reading scores. He also signed legislation to make it easier for higher education students to transfer credits from a community or technical college to any of Kentucky’s four-year universities.
This year’s convention theme is “NEA Standing Strong: for our Students, our Schools, and America.”
“I know that tests do not define schools,” said Gov. Beshear, who is married to a former teacher. “Schools are educators.”
“In these tough economic times, Gov. Beshear has advanced children’s health, advocated for common sense pension reform, and protected our members’ health care,” said Sharron Oxendine, president of the Kentucky Education Association, in an earlier statement.
Following the governor’s remarks, Van Roekel quipped: “I know thousands of people out there who are going, ‘Damn. I wish I had a governor like that.’”
Beshear is the fourth recipient of the prestigious award. Previous winners include Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland and Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico. These elected officials are indicative of strong local leaders who provide our students the best education and opportunities to reach their potential in school and beyond.