Education Politics

With the University of Louisville’s accreditation in the balance, the state legislature voted on Saturday to abolish the school’s board of trustees and create a new, smaller board, much like Gov. Matt Bevin tried to do last summer.

Some are worried the measure will exacerbate the appearance of political influence over the school’s governance.

A trial court blocked Bevin from overhauling the U of L board last year. And the school’s accreditation was put on probation last month by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, citing undue political influence.

Rep. Jody Richards, a Democrat from Bowling Green, said lawmakers weren’t taking the threat of sanctions seriously enough.

“SACS doesn’t play games — their nonpartisan, they’re tough, and they think that you should abide by the rules that they lay down,” he said.

SACS is scheduled to deliver a letter to U of L officials next week detailing why the university’s accreditation was put on probation and how it could remedy the situation.

Opponents of the bill encouraged lawmakers to wait until they’d heard from the organization before passing it.

But Rep. Jason Nemes, a Republican from Louisville, disagreed.

“I think maybe the best way to get a nod from SACS is to act on Senate Bill 12 and let them respond to what we have done, rather than what the governor has done,” he said.

The bill passed with a vote of 57-35 and will take effect once Gov. Matt Bevin signs it, which he said would be by Monday morning.

Attorney General Andy Beshear, who sued Bevin over his revamp of the board, said he would continue fighting the effort in court.

“If SACS enforces its written rules then the damage is done to the University of Louisville,” he said in a statement, “but the governor’s claim of ‘absolute authority’ to dissolve any university board at any time for any reason still threatens every other public university and all Kentucky students and their families.”

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