Lexington mayoral hopefuls Ronnie Bastin and Linda Gorton took on the topic of education at an hour-long forum Thursday night.
The Blue Grass Community Foundation forum saw both candidates issue their most full-throated rejection of charters yet, leaving little question whether the city’s next mayor might leave the door open to the alternative schools.
"They can't show that they're successful to a great degree. They can discriminate against students. They can pull much-needed money from the resources that we have right now for our public schools," Bastin said.
Adding to that list of concerns, Gorton said, "I think it has the potential also to create different levels of education that may not be good for our children and our community. It will segregate certain people into charter schools."
Asked whether either would support new taxes to deliver on a campaign promise – such as preschool or college access programs – Gorton noted any initiative would need council backing first. Bastin said he’s generally not in favor of raising taxes and would prefer to seek out other avenues to fund priorities.
On school safety, Gorton said the urgency of the issue would be reflected in the budget and promised to foster a close partnership with the superintendent and school leaders to address safety concerns. Bastin, a former police chief, said the community must have “unapologetic conversations” about what it will take to keep kids safe and expressed support for the district’s 10-point safety plan.
Bastin’s mayoral campaign says the decision to hand-deliver election finance reporting had nothing to do with transparency, but was instead the result of a software mismatch.
The Lexington Herald-Leader’s editorial board recently questioned the move, suggesting Bastin delayed public access to donor information by not filing electronically.
Campaign manager Sherelle Roberts Pierre says the campaign wanted to work with a local business for its financial reporting, but "unfortunately the software did not work with KREF (the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance)... and so, despite the fact that we cannot file electronically, we made sure to hand-deliver our report to the newspaper on the first very day, literally hours after we filed it."
The latest numbers show Bastin with a commanding lead in fundraising, but the former public safety commissioner's opponent says she’s been outspent in every race she’s run.
"It's nothing new to me, but I have a really strong grassroots effort, so that compensates for tons of money," she told WUKY.
Recent reports show Bastin with more than $181,000 left to spend before the November election, while Gorton has banked nearly $72,000.
"We feel like we're in a good spot and gaining momentum and that's where we want to be," Bastin said.