FRANKFORT, Ky. – Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said he plans to propose a bill to overhaul the Kentucky Board of Education, following a similar move by Gov. Andy Beshear last month.
Gov. Beshear reorganized the board on his first day in office with an executive order, firing the old members and appointing 11 new ones.
He promised to make the move repeatedly on the campaign trial but drew the ire of legislative leaders when he followed through on his plan.
Stivers said he already has a bill ready to go, but he’s waiting to hear from Gov. Beshear to get his thoughts before filing it.
“It would not allow (the board) to be subject to reorganization, so nobody can come in on the next term, and on a whim or a desire or a political commitment, blow it up,” Stivers said.
Stivers said full details on the bill will be released when the bill is filed, but it includes provisions to ensure diversity on the board, including provisions on the racial and political makeup of the board.
Even though the new board has met multiple times, members still have to be approved by the Senate. Stivers said he’s not sure his bill will pass, so there’s a possibility he may still hold a vote on the governor’s education board before the session ends in April.
Stivers said the current rules would prohibit a board member from being reappointed to the board for another two years, and his proposal would allow those board members to still be considered if the board is reorganized again.
“Should they be penalized because of that statute? No,” Stivers said. “So there’s non-codified language that would allow them to be reappointed within the spectrum of qualifications on a new 11-person board.” Stivers said members of his own caucus sound supportive of the measure, but he hasn’t spoken to Democratic leaders yet. Senate Minority Floor Leader Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, said he supports it.
“This is the type of thing that we need to do so that administrations, future administrations, can’t come in and blow up a Board of Education,” McGarvey said. “I will say, I wish we had it before now.” Gov. Beshear actually fought former Gov. Matt Bevin in court over the issue of reorganizing education boards when Bevin made similar moves while Beshear was attorney general.
The Kentucky Supreme Court ultimately sided with Bevin, and Beshear has been using that ruling to justify his action with the Kentucky Board of Education.
The governor’s executive order is currently being challenged by the former board members in U.S. District Court.
Beshear responded to Stivers’ proposal to reorganize the Kentucky State Board of Education while touring the Carter G. Woodson Academy in Lexington Friday.
“It’s something that, while I might not agree with it, because I believe the current composition of the board is an incredibly well-qualified board, it does appear that he’s trying to do something within some reasonable bounds,” Beshear said.