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Fletcher, Beshear Talk Education In Centre College Debate

DANVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Improving education would be a high priority for Kentucky's gubernatorial candidates in the legislative session that begins in January.

Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher and Democratic challenger Steve Beshear used a televised debate at Centre College on Sunday evening to tout their plans for improving education at all levels. Both candidates said they want to increase the salaries of public school teachers, and both offered plans to help Kentucky students afford a college education.

Fletcher said the state may need to consider a moratorium on tuition increases at public universities, while Beshear called for a program that would forgive the college loans of qualifying Kentucky students.

"It's getting to where Kentucky children can't afford to go to Kentucky colleges," Beshear said during the sometimes spirited debate aired on television stations in Bowling Green, Hazard, Lexington, Louisville and Huntington, W.Va.

Fletcher said the state has increased teacher salaries by 10.5 percent since he took office in 2003, and that he wants to continue working to bring those wages up to the national average.

Trailing in recent media polls, Fletcher also lashed out at Beshear, repeating an oft-made claim that electing him would be a step toward legalizing casinos in Kentucky.

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