A state senate committee has moved forward a measure that would reorganize the Kentucky Board of Education – again. Under the measure, the board members appointed by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear would lose their seats, and Beshear would appoint another board according to new rules.
When Beshear took office, his first act was to dissolve the board of education – one of his major campaign promises. The former board was filled with members appointed by his predecessor, Republican Matt Bevin, who were unpopular with teacher groups and public education activists.
Beshear dissolved the board through executive order in Dec. 2019, and then appointed his own members, who have yet to be confirmed by the state senate. The Bevin appointees are suing Beshear in federal court to get their seats back.
Now, Senate Republicans want to dissolve Beshear’s board, and take away the governor’s power to reorganize it through executive order.
“Did Gov. Beshear follow the law? Yes he did. But sometimes we change laws because they’re not good,” bill sponsor and Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester) told the senate education committee Thursday.
Stivers rejected claims his bill is politically motivated.
“People sometimes say it was something directed at Andy Beshear,” Stivers said. “No, it is not. It is about institutional integrity of the systems.”
Stivers said the bill is meant to keep the board independent.
“So that the next governor who walks through the door, whomever it may be, at whatever time, could not just sit there and say, ‘I don’t agree with this board, I’m going to reconstitute it through executive order.'”
Democrats in the senate committee pushed back on the bill.
Sen. Reginald Thomas (D-Lexington) questioned Stivers as to why the senate did not try to limit the governor’s power when Matt Bevin, a Republican, reconstituted several state boards.
“Why now this governor?” Thomas asked.
Several public education activists also spoke out against the bill, including Lydia Coffey, a retired Casey County middle school teacher.
“Why change what’s been appointed? If you look at the qualifications of this board, they are probably the most highly qualified board we’ve ever had,” she said.
Stivers said Beshear could reappoint members of the current board, as long he stuck to the new rules. The bill would require the board to have equal members of both political parties, equal men and women, geographic diversity and racial minority representation. Those rules would prevent him from reappointing the same members.
The committee passed the measure along partisan lines. It heads to the full senate.
Republican lawmakers have filed several other measures that would limit the governor’s powers to reconstitute other state boards as well.