Such broad-based requests for records are not uncommon among political operatives.
The Kentucky GOP wants to delve into the letters Beshear and key members of the administration have received or sent during the pandemic, looking for any opportunity to do damage to the education and pandemic management issues Beshear championed as governor. They asked for communications about school closures, distance learning and non-traditional instruction.
Republican lawmakers who control Kentucky’s legislature were sidelined in the early stages of the outbreak, when the governor largely controlled the state’s pandemic policy. Their goal: Tie governors to statewide test scores that reflect students’ pandemic-related setbacks, part of a national trend.
Beshear has said his stewardship of the country during the pandemic has saved lives and that he followed the guidance of former President Donald Trump’s administration. He also said that throughout the pandemic, he had “been out of politics” in shaping coronavirus policy.
Now, efforts to unearth records related to school closures have sparked a fresh round of finger-pointing.
Late last year, a Republican request for the letter was rejected by the governor’s office, saying it failed to “accurately describe identifiable records.” The case then goes to the state attorney general’s office, which issues legally binding decisions in public records disputes.
That adds to the already sizeable political base of the case, as Attorney General Daniel Cameron is one of the Republicans running for governor. Cameron recused himself from the case, but his office said the public records dispute needs to be adjudicated under state law.
This week, the attorney general’s office weighed in. It said the governor’s office violated state open records laws by not turning over the much-loved letter, prompting a backlash from Beshear’s side. A spokeswoman for Beshear claimed that Cameron’s office had based its conclusions on a narrower request for redacted records — a development the governor’s office had not had an opportunity to respond to.
In denying the request, the governor’s office said it was too broad to pursue any correspondence related to issues related to school closures. Cameron’s office said the state GOP “clarified” in its appeal that Beshear’s office could fulfill the request by searching the email accounts of the individuals named and using specific search terms.
Beshear spokeswoman Crystal Staley argued that the “rules of the game” had changed during the GOP’s appeal to the attorney general’s office.
“Our office has never had the opportunity to respond to the specific requests they (the Attorney General’s Office) ruled,” she said in a statement.
A Republican spokesman said the request was about accountability.
“Andy Beshear continues to evade scrutiny over how he and his team make decisions related to school closures during the pandemic,” said Sean Southard, a spokesman for the state Republican Party. ) Say.
Test scores released last fall showed that less than half of Kentucky students read at grade level. Composite scores for math, science and social studies were even lower.
Yet the performance of Kentucky students is only part of a larger trend of sharp declines in math and reading scores across the country during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, Beshear is using his domineering pulpit to pressure the Republican-dominated legislature to restart the state’s two-year budget to increase funding for K-12 education. The governor called for higher teacher salaries and state-funded preschools for 4-year-olds. Beshear also urged more funding for textbooks and professional development, and the creation of regional centers to train educators on how best to help students deal with mental health issues.
Beshear said his proposal aims to address teacher shortages, better prepare preschoolers for kindergarten and help students catch up and thrive.
Republican lawmakers in Kentucky have generally followed their own lines when crafting education policy. The budget passed last year provided funding for full-day kindergartens and poured money into teachers’ pensions and infrastructure. They increase the state’s main funding package for K-12 schools, but by far less than Beshear’s proposed amount.
Now, the GOP is trying to undermine Beshear’s re-election prospects by highlighting declining test scores across the state, while trying to pry into internal communications about school closures.
“After presiding over a student’s historic learning loss, shouldn’t Andy Beshear be giving parents transparency into who is advising him and how he makes his decisions?” Southard Say.