Andrea Bennett

Jeffersontown, KY – For seven years, kids and families have been a focus of Governor Beshear and his 8th State of the Commonwealth holds good news for Kentucky’s youngest citizens once again.  There has been real progress for Kentucky’s children and youth and, as the Governor noted, that progress is a result of bi-partisan and collaborative leadership in areas from education to health to family economics.

It was encouraging to hear the Governor reaffirm commitments to several priorities from the 2015 Blueprint for Kentucky’s Children.  As an example, a comprehensive statewide smoke-free law will protect children today and, by protecting pregnant women from secondhand smoke, that law will protect unborn babies as well.  In addition, the Governor and legislators from both sides of the aisle recognize that Kentucky simply cannot remain one of the only places in America where citizens are not protected from dating violence.  A strong protective order element will protect older teens from dating violence and will also ensure that we reduce the number of children exposed to violence in their homes.

Child advocates have also long looked for reform in alternative pathways for students in schools.  It was particularly encouraging to hear the Governor embrace the idea that while every graduate needs post-secondary education, that does not mean every Kentucky graduate needs to go to a traditional four-year university.  His vision for a real 21st century-styled technical training for Kentucky graduates is as pragmatic as it is principled.  It challenges conventional thinking and should be embraced as a real step forward for Kentucky’s young people.

Of course, attention to early childhood has been a hallmark of the Beshear Administration and again, that is a focus legislative champions from both sides of the aisle share.  We certainly concur that quality is imperative for early childhood experiences, but we would offer a strong word of caution.  There is a delicate and, in fact, difficult balance between quality and access; Kentucky families deserve both for their young children.  So yes, let’s ensure higher quality standards permeate early childhood but let’s also ensure that those higher standards strengthen rather than restrict access to affordable child care for Kentucky’s working families.

Speaker Stumbo, President Stivers and Governor Beshear have made a difference for Kentucky kids through pragmatic teamwork.  Tonight the Governor offered a common sense agenda to move Kentucky a few more steps closer to becoming the best place in America to be young.