Beshear breaks up Kentucky Board of Education on first day as governor
Fulfilling a campaign promise to the educators who helped elect him, Gov. Andy Beshear signed an executive order Tuesday to replace the members of the Kentucky Board of Education.
The new governor dissolved the board — consisting entirely of appointees from former Gov. Matt Bevin — and re-created it with new members through the order, issued Tuesday morning.
“I reorganized the state board of education and appointed new members who support public education,” Beshear said, according to a written copy of his inauguration speech. “These members were not chosen based on any partisan affiliation, but based on their commitment to make our schools better. To put our children first.”
He did not immediately announce the new members.
During his campaign, Beshear said the new appointees would be expected to fire Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis, who he said had pushed policies that undermined public education.
The newly constituted board has not yet scheduled a meeting to discuss Lewis’ employment.
Kentucky’s educators, feeling slighted by Bevin, largely backed Beshear’s campaign, which made strengthening and funding public education a focus of his platform.
Beshear promised across-the-board $2,000 raises for Kentucky teachers and to make public schools a top priority in his proposed biennial budget for the 2020 session of the Kentucky General Assembly.
Beshear also promised during the campaign to replace the 11-member education board with new members “that care more about our children than a for-profit charter school company” and would not “sit on Twitter all day long and attack their perceived opponents.”
Bevin’s board members and Lewis were criticized by Beshear and teachers unions for having minimal education experience and for supporting education reform efforts such as charter schools, in addition to an attempted state takeover of Jefferson County Public Schools.
Of the 11 members appointed during Bevin’s term, only one, Gary Houchens, worked in a public school.
Lewis taught for five years before moving into academia and being named commissioner. His predecessors’ resumes, in contrast, included decadelong stints as teachers and superintendents and time in state and federal agencies.
As attorney general, Beshear filed multiple lawsuits challenging Bevin’s reorganizations of various boards, including the University of Louisville board of trustees and the state’s education professional standards board.
The Kentucky Supreme Court sided with Bevin in those cases and upheld the governor’s authority to reshape such boards, which Beshear then cited as his precedent for being able to do the same with the Kentucky Board of Education.
By Olivia Krauth and Joe Sonka
Louisville Courier Journal