FRANKFORT, Ky. — A bill to reverse Governor Andy Beshear’s decision to overhaul the Kentucky Board of Education clears its first legislative hurdle.
The Senate Education Committee passed Senate Bill 10 Thursday, sending the measure to the Senate floor.
Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, sponsors the bill and said it is not politically motivated.
“People sometimes say it was something directed at Governor Andy Beshear; No it is not,” Stivers said. “It is about institutional integrity of the systems and what happens.”
Beshear appointed an entirely new board after he took office in December, following similar actions former Governor Matt Bevin took with other education boards during his term.
Senate Bill 10 would put new restrictions on appointees to the Kentucky Board of Education, including political, racial and gender guidelines. It also prohibits the governor from reorganizing the board.
State Sen. Reggie Thomas, D-Lexington, questioned the timing.
“I’m at a loss for words, President Stivers, why now?” Thomas asked Stivers during Thursday’s committee meeting. “This governor, who just wants to honor a campaign promise — I mean he said he was going to do this, honor a campaign promise — that he was going to change the state Board of Education, why are we seeing Senate Bill 10 today?”
Beshear also questioned the timing and questioned the Senate President’s priorities.
“Instead of focusing on the critical challenges facing Kentucky, like being No. 1 in child abuse and neglect, our healthcare needs, or the investment we need to make in public education itself, a select group of legislators have now filed bill after bill after bill aimed at stripping myself, the new governor, of certain powers,” Beshear said.
Education advocate Lucy Waterbury with Save Our Schools Kentucky said she likes some parts of the bill, but she wants the current board members to stay.
“We’re here because of the perfect storm,” Waterbury said. “None of us really want to be addressing this because it wasn’t broken, but it was broken under Governor Bevin, and I think that Governor Beshear was just trying to hit the reset button with some folks that he felt like were the right people to reset.”
Stivers said he just wants to remove politics from the process.
“Did Governor Beshear, this current governor, follow the law? Yes, he did, I’m not denying that fact, but sometimes we change laws because they’re not good,” Stivers said.
Stivers said some of the current board members could be considered again under Senate Bill 10 if it’s approved, but due to the political restrictions, not all of them will be considered.
Members of the previous board would not get their positions back under the bill.
Some former board members have sued Beshear to prevent the new board from doing business, but efforts to have a judge approve an emergency injunction to stop the board from the meeting have failed at both the state and federal level.
The lawsuit is still pending in federal court.