Lt. Jacqueline Coleman contemplates the Nettie Depp statue and education in Kentucky

FRANKFURT, Kentucky (WKYT) — In early November, the first statue honoring a Kentucky woman was installed in the state capitol.

It was a leader in education and fit for an administration that worked hard to put Kentucky schools first.

Recently, WKYT’s Amber Philpott caught up with Governor Jacqueline Coleman to talk about how important this statue is to her personally and what message it sends moving forward about the value of education in the Commonwealth.

If she ever needs a little inspiration and encouragement, teacher turned governor Jacqueline Coleman needs to look down the hall from her office in the state capitol.

“I see someone who has spent her life fighting for education and for equality and making sure that girls and women are treated fairly,” said Lieutenant Governor Jacqueline Coleman.

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

In 2022, her figure will become the first large-scale memorial honoring a Kentucky woman to be placed in the capital.

Her statue now stands where only statues of men stand. Approximately seven feet high, a bronze statue of Depp is placed near the west entrance.

“The first female statue in the Kentucky State Capitol happened while I’m just down the hall and also for me to landmark the first statue means a lot to me,” said Lt. Colman Coleman.

Long before she was given the title of Lieutenant Guntour, Coleman grew up roaming the halls of the Capitol as a child while her father served in office.

said Lieutenant Governor Coleman.

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

“Governor Bashir and I both have great respect for the work our teachers do, we elevate them every day, we are the premier education department,” said Lt. Colman Coleman.

In a recent report, the governor saw nearly 11,000 teacher positions open in the state, he says, due to the pandemic and years of denial of pay increases.

Lieutenant Guntur says that years ago she witnessed the attack on public education in Frankfurt.

“I always say to teachers and retired teachers that I have your back, we have your back. And to change the whole discourse around the teaching profession I think is really important because for so many years there has really been an outright disrespect from our senior leaders and it will take some time to undo that,” Lt. Coleman said.

In October, Governor Bashir released his Education First plan. Some of his calls include a five percent increase for every Kentucky school employee.

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

It’s something the governor says is vital in setting students up for success.

“I can’t tell you the difference it will make in a child’s life trajectory to get to comprehensive pre-kindergarten, an entire generation of children,” said Lt. Coleman Coleman.

To help set the price for the education-first plan, the lieutenant governor points to a record-breaking revenue surplus.

Lieutenant Coleman said, “If we invested in universal pre-kindergarten for every 4-year-old and a 5% increase for every school employee across the state, we would still have the third largest budget surplus in Kentucky history.”

As a teacher first, Lt. Governor knows a good lesson plan when she sees it and hopes that what she and Governor Bashir put forward is one that even Niti Deb will approve of to try and inspire more teachers like her.

“If you want to change your society and the Commonwealth, and this world become a teacher,” said Lieutenant Governor Coleman.

The education plan will first be brought before lawmakers during the 2023 regular session.

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

We asked Lt. Coleman about the upcoming 2023 race for governor of Kentucky, and she said she’d be on that ticket and ready to fight even harder for Kentucky educators.

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