FRANKFORT, Ky. (AMW) – Gov. Steve Beshear has been awarded the 2011 America’s Greatest Education Governor Award by the National Education Association The annual award recognizes governors the association says have made major, state-level efforts toward improving public schools.
“Governor Beshear has shown unwavering support for Kentucky’s students and educators,” said Dennis Van Roekel, president of the NEA. “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. And in the midst of budget cuts, he fought to preserve resources for K-12 education and the Commonwealth’s students and classrooms.”
“The most important investment a state can make is in the education of its children, and that’s why I have fought hard to protect the basic funding for our classrooms despite nine rounds of budget cuts,” said Beshear.
Kentucky has moved into the top 20 in the United States in fourth-grade and eight-grade reading scores, according to the governor’s office. Beshear has also signed legislation making it easier for higher education students to transfer credits from a community or technical college to any of Kentucky’s four-year universities.
“Throughout his distinguished career, Governor Beshear has been a friend and advocate for educators. In these tough economic times, he’s advanced children’s health, advocated for common sense pension reform and protected our members’ health care,” said Sharron K. Oxendine, president of Kentucky Education Association and a math teacher from Clark County. “There is not [a] better friend of public education and educators than Steve Beshear.”
Van Roekel is scheduled to present the award to Beshear on Sunday at an NEA assembly in Chicago.
Beshear is the fourth recipient of the annual award, all of which have been Democrats. Past recipients are Maryland’s Martin O’Malley in 2010, New Mexico’s Bill Richardson in 2009 and North Carolina’s Mike Easley in 2008.
Beshear is currently running for re-election against Republican State Senate President David Williams. Shortly after the award was announced by the governor’s office, Beshear’s campaign sent out its own email announcement and solicited donations.
Williams and Beshear sparred over education funding during the 2011 General Assembly. Williams did not respond to an email seeking comment on Beshear’s receipt of the NEA award.