FRANKFORT, Ky. – The Senate President wants to overhaul the Kentucky Board of Education again and undo the decisions made by Gov. Andy Beshear in December.
Gov. Beshear overhauled the board as one of his first acts in office. He felt the voters gave him a mandate after the campaign he ran.
“The (Kentucky) Supreme Court ruled about a year and a half ago that the governor has the authority to overhaul these education boards, and so i announced after that Supreme Court decision that if elected, I was going to overhaul the State Board of Education,” Beshear said. “This is what the people of Kentucky wanted. It’s what they voted on. It is the will of the people. And we’ve used it to put together a board that the education community, teachers, superintendents and even parents that are involved think is an outstanding board.”
But Republican leaders in the House and Senate criticized the move, and now Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, has proposed Senate Bill 10 to undo the governor’s actions. Stivers brought up Gov. Beshear’s arguments against former Gov. Matt Bevin when he reorganized other education boards back when Beshear was attorney general.
“Exactly what Andy Beshear argued for, and that this bill tries to do, he now tries to argue against,” Stivers said. “It’s nothing that, i would think, that they would be offended by since this was consistently his position through his four years through the Attorney General’s office.”
Senate Bill 10 would put restrictions in place on the makeup of the board, seeking an equal number of men and women and a proportional amount of minorities to the state’s population. It also requires a politically balanced board, a point of contention since the new board is all Democrats. Current state law does not allow a governor to consider the political party of potential appointees.
“I’m a little perplexed by what they’ve said and what they’ve done because this is racial equity, political equity, gender equity,” Stivers said. “And they’re opposed to that?”
The bill would also specifically prohibit a governor from reorganizing the board. Gov. Beshear defended the new board, saying it’s made up of professionals that reflect Kentucky’s values. The new board is currently looking for a new education commissioner and Gov. Beshear criticized the previous board for not doing its due diligence in the last search.
“The last board simply appointed a Bevin employee that agreed with him philosophically,” Beshear said. “We are going to have that independent search to find the very best person. He or she may disagree with both sides or different groups on various issues, but we know that they will be ultimately qualified and ready to lead us forward.”
The previous education commissioner, Wayne Lewis, resigned amid pressure from the new board during its first meeting. He’s now a dean at Belmont University. Some of the former board members have sued Gov. Beshear to stop the board from meeting. that case is pending in federal court.
If the bill passes, the current board would be dissolved, but some of the current board members could still be considered for the new board.