Whitesburg KY

Fletcher’s ad is reprehensible

Gov. Ernie Fletcher apparently would have kept Kentucky kids trapped in substandard schools receiving substandard educations while the state sank to rock bottom.

That’s what it means when Fletcher says he would have voted against the education reforms of 1990 and, as his attack ad puts it, the “largest tax increase in history” that paid for them.

The Kentucky Education Reform Act received bipartisan support in the legislature because Republicans and Democrats understood the desperate need for better schools.

Business leaders supported the tax increase and were pushing hard for the reforms, especially the emphasis on accountability.

Fletcher’s Republican challenger Anne Northup, depicted as the pigtailed bully in Fletcher’s “I am victim” fantasy, voted for KERA when she was in the state House.

So did Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville.

It was a good vote.

Kentucky schools have improved because of KERA. It shows in the scores on state tests and the National Assessment of Educational Progress. It shows in Kentucky’s second-place national ranking, according to a report released this week by the Southern Education Foundation, in enrollment rates for state-funded pre-kindergarten.

It shows in the shiny new schoolhouses that replaced rundown heaps. KERA has channeled millions of dollars into poor districts where kids once had no chance of an equal education.

Has there been enough improvement? Certainly not. Some schools and districts seem impervious to change. Education hasn’t gotten enough money as health care, prisons and other needs compete for state dollars. Some new approaches are needed.

But think how much worse Kentucky would be without KERA. Think how afraid Kentucky lawmakers are to ever raise taxes.

Fletcher’s attack is irresponsible and demagogic. Especially when he has been such a disappointing education governor, promising but never delivering a package of improvements developed by his former Education Secretary Virginia Fox and former Education Commissioner Gene Wilhoit.

And Fletcher appointed the state school board that just botched hiring a commissioner.

Barbara Erwin arrives with a four-year contract but under a cloud because the board’s search firm failed to convey serious questions about her past performance and resumÎ errors.

The board learned that critical information from the news, but forged ahead, raising doubts about her credibility and the board’s.

When asked to explain the attack on Northup’s pro-KERA vote, Fletcher’s campaign manager said he would have chosen “to go a different direction.”

Oh? He’s had almost four years, and we’ve yet to see just what that direction might be.

– The Lexington Herald-Leader

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