Louisville pastors endorse Hal Heiner’s gubernatorial bid

01/16/2015 05:41 PM

Standing beneath the image of the first African-American to successfully challenge segregation at the University of Kentucky, the Kentucky Pastors Action Coalition endorsed Republican gubernatorial candidate Hal Heiner Friday, citing his support for public charter schools as a key factor in the decision.

Heiner, one of three Republicans vying for the party’s nomination, accepted the endorsement at Lyman T. Johnson Traditional Middle School with about 30 supporters.

Some in attendance, such as Bishop Michael Ford Sr. of Christ Temple Christian Life Center, bemoaned the achievement gap between white students and black students and pointed to a Black Alliance for Educational Options survey conducted last year that shows more than 70 percent of Louisville African-American voters support charter schools as an educational option.

“The importance of our being here today is that we are here to state that Hal Heiner has consistently shown himself as a friend and a supporter and as an advocate of quality education for all children, particularly the disadvantaged and low-income black children,” Ford said.

Heiner, a businessman and former Louisville Metro Council member, has campaigned for charter schools throughout his run for governor. Even before launching a statewide bid, Heiner honed his views on charter schools as the former chairman of the Kentucky Charter School Association and Kentuckians Advocating Reforms in Education.

After accepting the Kentucky Pastors Action Coalition endorsement, Heiner promised he would work aggressively to make charter schools a reality in Kentucky if elected governor.

“I’m here to pledge to you this morning that as governor I will do everything in my power to bring education options to all Kentuckians, not just to close this widening achievement gap in Kentucky, but to make sure that each and every one of our children can achieve the maximum education achievement in their life,” he said.

Some who spoke called substandard education the 21st century’s Civil Rights issue, and regardless of where Heiner stands on other matters, his support for charter schools is enough to earn him the coalition’s backing.

Ford said he wasn’t aware of Heiner’s complete campaign platform, “but this is a critical issue for the African-American community and for our children.”

“It kind of trumps a lot of the other things because economic development, all these things kind of play off of education, a strong education, and so we really believe that that’s one of the keys to our success as a people,” he said.

And unlike some politicians, Heiner has reached out to voters of all stripes, “whether you’re black, whether you’re white, whether you’re a Democrat like me or a Republican,” said Ray Barker Sr., a retired Louisville Metro Police Department officer.

“He’s welcoming all that want the better life for Kentuckians, and that’s the difference to me is that he’s inclusive, not exclusive like some of our Democratic leaders,” Barker said. “I’m not naming names, but we know somebody who ran for office and didn’t even court my vote, didn’t even come down and ask me for my vote. Just naturally assumed you were going to get it because I’m a Democrat and you’re running as a Democrat.”

Heiner, if he wins the Republican nomination and later the general election, will likely need some help implementing a strategy for charter schools, which are available in 42 states. The subject has proven a politically divisive issue in the state legislature, particularly the Democrat-led House of Representatives.

As others in the GOP gubernatorial field also voice their support for charter schools, Heiner is banking on his past work in education reform groups to differentiate himself from other Republican gubernatorial hopefuls. Heiner, who has pumped some $4.2 million into his gubernatorial campaign since entering the race in March, called education reform a “core conviction” for him.

Heiner, who has presented himself to voters as a political outsider, blamed the lack of movement on charter schools in large part to “entrenched interests in Frankfort.”

“This is an important topic,” he told reporters after the press conference. “I’ve been to schools around the country. I’ve seen the difference when you provide parents choice, how just that competition between wing A and wing B of the school in some cases are helping kids in both wings succeed at levels the school had never seen before.”


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