Politics

A judge has ruled Gov. Matt Bevin had the power to reorganize several state education boards over the summer, but said the governor’s restructuring of a board that dealt with teacher disciplinary actions was unconstitutional.

Attorney General Andy Beshear sued Bevin over the move, saying reorganizations should be left up to the legislature and that the governor had exceeded his authority.

Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate agreed with Bevin’s argument that he has the power to temporarily reorganize boards while the legislature isn’t in session.

“In making temporary reorganization changes to Kentucky education boards, the Governor is exercising a purely executive power, which the General Assembly delegated to him,” Wingate wrote.

This is the fourth time Beshear, a Democrat, has sued Bevin, a Republican, since they took office after the 2015 elections. This is also the third lawsuit involving the governor’s reorganization power.

Bevin’s changes to education boards included the appointment of four non-voting charter school advisors to the Kentucky Board of Education and total replacement of boards that deal with certifying teachers and establishing curriculum standards.

Wingate ruled that part of the governor’s overhaul of the Education Professional Standards board were unconstitutional — the agency handles teacher certifications and the appeals process for teachers accused of violating standards.

Bevin’s order removed a provision that allow teachers to appeal board decisions to the court system, instead requiring appeals to go to the Kentucky Board of Education.

“Had the Governor merely reorganized the EPSB, like the other education boards, the Governor would have acted within the confines of his delegated authority,” Wingate wrote. “However, the imposition of completely new appellate procedures exceeds the Governor’s power and violates the Kentucky Constitution.”

In a statement, Bevin Communications Director Amanda Stamper said the governor is pleased with the ruling.

“The Court shot down Attorney General Beshear’s politically motivated arguments that he has repeatedly raised over the last two years,” she wrote.

Stamper said that the portion of Bevin’s executive order struck down would be revisited during the upcoming legislative session.

“We respect the Court’s ruling that this change was not appropriate for a reorganization order and expect the General Assembly to address the issue in 2018,” she wrote.

Beshear said he would appeal the decision, but applauded the judge’s ruling against changes to the Education Professional Standards Board.

“Today’s decision is a victory for teachers and families as the trial court ruled that the governor violated Kentucky’s Constitution by attempting to control and change the certification and disciplinary process for Kentucky’s school teachers,” Beshear wrote.

“I believe the Kentucky Supreme Court will find the governor broke more laws when this matter is appealed. The governor simply cannot rewrite law through executive order.”

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.