After nearly four years, it’s become abundantly obvious that Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear (D) can’t be trusted with making decisions. Instead of supporting parents, students and the dedicated teachers who put classroom learning first, he has allied himself with teachers union officials. And instead of protecting the commonwealth’s citizens from harm, Beshear has made himself the best friend that incarcerated criminals ever had.
As governor of Kentucky, Beshear is like a turtle balanced atop a fence post. According to the old witticism, he doesn’t belong there, he can’t accomplish anything while he’s up there, and you know for certain that he didn’t get there by himself.
In Beshear’s case, it was officials from the teachers unions who put him on top in his 2019 election. During that gubernatorial contest, teachers unions funneled at least $1.1 million to outside groups supporting Beshear, in addition to direct contributions. Even with all that money and a stunningly unpopular incumbent opponent, Beshear won the race by the razor-thin margin of just over 5,000 votes, or just under 0.4 percent of votes counted.
In aligning himself with teachers union bosses who seem more interested in using their political muscle to promote left-wing activism than in advancing educational excellence, Beshear put himself at odds with the people of Kentucky.
American Federation of Teachers (AFL-CIO) union boss Randi Weingarden, who endorsed Beshear in 2019 and again this year, was infamously caught influencing White House and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) officials when COVID-19 guidance was issued in February 2021. Weingarden’s arm-twisting effectively kept schools locked down, overriding the CDC’s own researchers, who had found that there was “little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission.”
Doing the bidding of teachers unions, Beshear banned in-person instruction in elementary, middle and high schools for a second time in November 2020.
The halt to in-person instruction cost students the learning equivalent of 35 percent of their school year. Beshear needs to know that school closures caused not only worse learning outcomes but also multiple physical and mental health issues and even crises among students at all levels.
In August 2021 — long after people in most states had moved on — Beshear issued an executive order mandating masks in both public and private schools. The mask mandate included preschool students. By that time, only 11 other states were mandating masks. The fact that Weingarten praised the governor for this makes it clear who is influencing his judgment.
That’s an important point to keep in mind, because just as election season begins to heat up, the specter of mask mandates is returning to the conversation, despite a recent Cochrane review of studies on the topic that failed to find any benefit from mask mandates in containing or slowing the spread of COVID.
When it comes to giving students and parents more educational choice, Beshear has marched in lockstep with his union buddies. In April 2022, he vetoed legislation that would provide a permanent funding mechanism for charter schools, allowing funding to follow the student. Fortunately, his veto was overridden. The legislation is currently pending before a Kentucky circuit court, with the office of Attorney General Daniel Cameron (Beshear’s opponent in this November’s election) arguing in favor of it. Beshear’s hostility toward school choice is curious, considering that he attended a private school before attending a public high school.
Perhaps no other decision better illustrates Beshear’s tragic lack of judgment than his 2020 executive order directing the release of more than 1,700 criminals from prison during the pandemic. Within just a year, nearly half (47 percent) of those released early were charged in at least one new crime, and nearly one-third (533) with a new felony.
“We made, what I believe, are reasonable decisions,” Beshear said in trying to explain himself. He ought to explain that to the widow of Jeremy Caldwell. Four months after Beshear commuted Ashley Lewis’s drug-related sentence, she was arrested in connection with Caldwell’s murder. She has since pleaded guilty to second-degree criminal facilitation of murder.
Kentucky’s generously extended Beshear the benefit of the doubt in 2019. Much like the guy who seemed responsible at first but who wrecked your car the first time you loaned it to him, Beshear has demonstrated a lack of sound judgement. And now it’s time to take away the keys.
David McIntosh is a former member of the House of Representatives and the president of the Club for Growth.
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