Bill would prevent Beshear-style education move

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) — Future governors would not be able to reorganize the state Board of Education the way Gov. Andy Beshear did, under legislation forwarded Thursday to the state Senate.

The measure, known as Senate Bill 10, would undo Beshear’s December executive order and would prohibit future governors from reconstituting the board through executive orders.

The Senate Education Committee approved it on a party-line vote Thursday. The bill is part of a larger issue threatening to spark conflict between the new Democratic governor and GOP lawmakers looking to curtail his power.

Beshear fulfilled a campaign pledge when he revamped the education board in December. All of his appointees were Democrats, which drew the ire of Republican lawmakers.

Senate President Robert Shivers II, a Manchester Republican, responded by filing SB 10. He denied the measure is politically motivated.

“It is best the policy and institutional integrity stay consistent,” said Stivers. “That is what this legislature has done for the 20-plus years I have been here and … since the advent of KERA.”

KERA is the acronym for the Kentucky Education Reform Act passed in 1990, which sought to insulate the state’s education system from partisan politics.

Another provision of SB 10 would require board appointments to reflect equal gender representation and proportionally reflect the state’s political affiliation and minority racial composition. The current law prohibits a governor from considering the party affiliation of appointees.

Board members would still have to be at least 30 years old, have at least an associate’s degree and lived at least three years in Kentucky. Also, certain ethics requirements would still have to be met to avoid any conflicts of interests.

Democratic Caucus Chair Johnny Ray Turner, D-Prestonsburg, opposes the measure.

“I believe the guidelines and qualifications of board members are set so that the governor can choose the very best,” he said. “I think that is highlighted by some of his appointments.”

Stivers emphasized current board members could still be considered for the new board, if SB 10 becomes law. The new board’s composition, however, would have to meet the new gender, racial and political equity requirements.

The board’s primary mission would remain the same — to develop and adopt the regulations that govern Kentucky’s 172 public school districts and the actions of the Kentucky Department of Education.

Board members also serve as the board for the Kentucky School for the Blind in Louisville and Kentucky School for the Deaf in Danville.

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