Who Loves Ya, Dr. Pruitt? (Kentucky Teachers, That’s Who.)

In a special post he wrote a few months ago for KyForward, now-former Education Commissioner Dr. Stephen Pruitt invoked the spirit of a 1970’s TV drama to share his love for public education. Here are some excerpts:

Back in the 1970s, there was a TV drama called “Kojak.” The show’s star, Telly Savalas, was bald and almost always seen with a lollipop in his mouth. He loved them almost as much as he loved to solve crimes. His ever-present catch phrase, “Who loves ya baby?” was used to remind the people around him that he loved them and had their backs. You may be wondering, why is the commissioner of education writing about a fictional TV character from decades ago?

As an education community, we typically do not do a good job of telling our story. We allow it to be told for us, and it is typically focused on how bad things are. To be sure, we have work to do. Our achievement gap persists and we still have students performing well below their capacity. However, education is also the most complex of issues… Keeping faith in the system we have built, changing the things that need changing and hard work will move the system and our students forward.

So on this Valentine’s Day week, I ask our public schools out there, “Who loves ya baby?” Let me be the first to say, I do.

With roughly 24 hours of mounting pressure stemming from the appointment of 7 new Kentucky Board of Education members, it was rumored Monday evening that the newly shaped Board would look to oust Pruitt from his post as Kentucky Commissioner of Education. But now, having resigned his post on Tuesday afternoon, Pruitt finds himself in a unique position: he’s feeling that love right back.

Teachers and public education advocates took to their social media platforms Monday evening to express their support for Pruitt. Pruitt, who has always identified himself foremost as a teacher, was a favorite among educators across Kentucky. So much so, in fact, that teachers and ed activists headed to Frankfort earlier on Tuesday to show their support for him.

Pruitt, who has been hailed as one of Kentucky’s most student-centered commissioners, remained true to his cause as he yielded questions from reporters on Tuesday shortly after the announcement of his resignation: “What I will do is always stand for public education wherever I am, whether I’m commissioner or not. And I will always make a point to remember it’s about our children and our educators.” If you are reading this, Dr. Pruitt, we know that you will.

And in return, we too will invoke that beloved phrase of Telly Savalas: “Who loves ya, baby?”

Kentucky teachers. That’s who.


Photo: Kentucky Department of Education

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