Republicans upset about the new Kentucky governor’s overhaul of the state school board responded Tuesday with a bill that would block similar reorganizations from occurring again.
Senate President Robert Stivers introduced the bill and predicted quick action on it in the GOP-dominated Senate. It would prevent future governors from such a sweeping reorganization of the board’s membership. It would ensure political, gender and racial diversity on the board that oversees Kentucky’s K-12 education system, the Republican leader said.
“I don’t know how you argue against the diversity of this,” Stivers told reporters. “It’s the way it should have been in the first place.”
On his first day in office in December, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear fulfilled a campaign pledge when he disbanded and then recreated the Kentucky Board of Education. Beshear had expressed concerns about the previous board’s affinity for charter schools.
All of the governor’s appointees were Democrats, which drew the ire of Republican lawmakers.
Under the new bill, Beshear’s appointees would lose their seats but could be reconsidered for reappointment if the measure becomes law. The legislation calls for “proportional representation” among Democrats and Republicans on the state school board based on voter registration numbers. As a result, not all of Beshear’s appointees would be able to be reappointed.
The governor’s office on Tuesday defended the appointments.
“The current board is the best qualified in recent memory, including a superintendent of the year, an inductee into the National Teaching Hall of Fame and a former president of the University of Kentucky,” Beshear’s spokeswoman, Crystal Staley, said in a statement.
“In putting together the board, the governor has simply exercised the same authority that has been available to all previous governors,” she added.
Beshear wielded his executive authority to revamp the board’s membership on day one of his administration. The action drew an immediate court challenge from ousted board members who had been appointed by Beshear’s Republican predecessor, Matt Bevin. They claim Beshear exceeded his authority by removing them before their terms expired.
A series of state court judges left Beshear’s executive order intact. The former board members then took their case to federal court. A federal judge is reviewing their request for an emergency injunction that could restore the old board.
Since the new board was installed, the state’s previous education commissioner resigned under pressure and the board has taken initial steps toward the search for the next education chief.
The legislation is Senate Bill 10.