Education

A federal judge has issued a preliminary ruling against several former Kentucky Board of Education members who are trying to get their seats back. District Court Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove denied a request Thursday for a preliminary injunction sought by seven former members appointed by former Gov. Matt Bevin.

When Bevin’s successor, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear took office in December, he ousted the members of the board of education and replaced them with his own. Now seven Bevin-appointees are suing in federal court, saying Beshear violated their due process rights protected under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

They asked the court to issue a preliminary injunction to stop Beshear’s members from meeting. But in a Thursday ruling the judge denied their request, saying the Bevin-appointees are unlikely to win because they do not have a real constitutional claim.

“Plaintiffs have not asserted a viable claim under the Fourteenth Amendment because they have no property or liberty interest in an appointed and voluntary state office,” the order reads.

Furthermore, the order sides with Beshear’s attorneys’ claims that the question of the governor’s authority over the board has already been decided by the Kentucky Supreme Court. In a lawsuit Beshear brought as state attorney general against Bevin last year, the state supreme court ruled the governor has the power to reorganize state boards

“Beshear v. Bevin is the authoritative precedent on the issue of whether [the law] is facially constitutional, ultimately allowing the Governor to abolish and reconstruct education boards in Kentucky,” the Van Tatenhove’s order reads.

Despite the preliminary ruling, the Bevin-appointees’ attorney Steve Megerle said he’s still confident he has a good case.

“The denial of a preliminary injunction does not mean that the board members will not be successful when the ligation is fully briefed and fully litigated,” Megerle said in an interview.

“Simply put, this comes down to whether the General Assembly’s guardrails on independent state agencies can be thrown out by a governor who believes that he has complete control over every agency and department of state government, despite what the General Assembly has set up,” he said.

Megerle said he expects to fully brief the court in mid-March. Attorneys for Beshear and the state are asking the court to dismiss the case.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers are considering changing the board of education to become bi-partisan, and limiting the governor’s power over it.

Jess Clark is WFPL's Education and Learning Reporter.