Lt. Governor Jacqueline Coleman reflects on Nettie Depp statue and education in Kentucky

Lt. Gov. Coleman on new Nettie Depp statue and education
Published: Nov. 21, 2022 at 6:53 PM EST
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) -In early November, the first statue to honor a Kentucky woman was installed at the state capitol.

It was of a pioneer in the field of education and fitting for an administration that has worked hard to put Kentucky schools first.

Recently, WKYT’s Amber Philpott sat down with Lt. Governor Jacqueline Coleman to talk about how much this statue means to her personally and about the message it sends going forward about the value of education in the commonwealth.

If she ever needs a little inspiration and encouragement, educator turned Lt. Governor Jacqueline Coleman needs to look no further than down the hall from her office in the state capitol.

“I see somebody who spent her life fighting for education and for equality and to make sure that girls and women are treated fairly,” said Lt. Governor Jacqueline Coleman.

Nettie Depp was and still is a pioneer in many ways serving as an elected school superintendent in Barren County seven years before women could even vote.

In 2022 her likeness became the first large scale monument honoring a Kentucky woman to be placed in the capitol.

Her statue now stands in a place where only the statues of men have stood. At nearly seven-foot-tall the bronze statue of Depp is positioned near the West entrance.

“For the first female statue in Kentucky state capitol to happen while I’m right down the hall from it as well as for that first statue to be a teacher means a lot to me,” said Lt. Governor Coleman.

Long before she had the title of Lt. Governor, Coleman grew up roaming the halls of the Capitol as a child while her father served in office.

“My dad was in the legislature so I spent many a snow days ripping through these halls and never saw a statue that looked like me and the coolest thing about this for me is that Evelynne will never have to say that,” said Lt. Governor Coleman.

And the Lt. Governor’s little girl was there to see Nettie Depp unveiled, she says the statue is a symbol of what she and Governor Andy Beshear fight for every day.

“I as well as Governor Beshear have so much respect for the work that our educators do, we lift them up every day, we are an education first administration,” said Lt. Governor Coleman.

In a recent report the Governor sighted the state’s nearly 11,000 teacher vacancies, he says brought on by the pandemic and years of denied pay raises.

The Lt. Governor says for years she has watched the attack on public education play out in Frankfort.

“I always tell teachers and retired teachers I’ve got your back, we’ve got your back. And to change the whole rhetoric around the teaching profession I think is really important because for so many years there was just really an outright disrespect from our top leaders and it’s going to take some time to undo that,” said Lt. Governor Coleman.

In October Governor Beshear released his Education First Plan. Some of what he is calling for includes a five percent raise for every school employee in Kentucky.

He is again calling on lawmakers to fund universal preschool and full day kindergarten.

It’s something that the Lt. Governor says is vital in setting students up for success.

“I can’t tell you the difference it would make in the trajectory of a child’s life to have access to universal pre-k, an entire generation of kids,” said Lt. Governor Coleman.

To help with the price tag for the Education First Plan, the Lt. Governor points to a record setting revenue surplus.

“If we invest in universal pre-k for every 4-year-old and a 5% raise for every school employee across the state we will still have the third largest budget surplus in Kentucky’s history,” said Lt. Governor Coleman.

As a teacher first, the Lt. Governor knows a good lesson plan when she sees it and she’s hoping what she and Governor Beshear have put forth would be one even Nettie Depp would approve of to try and inspire more teachers like her.

“If you want to change your community and the commonwealth and this world become a teacher, said Lt. Governor Coleman.”

The Education First Plan will go before lawmakers during the 2023 regular session.

The plan also calls for a student loan forgiveness program for teachers and for the restoration of teacher pensions.

We asked Lt. Governor Coleman about the upcoming 2023 race for governor in Kentucky and she says she will be on that ticket and ready to fight even harder for Kentucky educators.