FRANKFORT, Ky. (WYMT) - Barely one hour after Governor Andy Beshear was sworn in during a private ceremony at the Governor's Mansion at midnight, he sent the first executive orders of his administration.
Secretary of State Alison Lundergan-Grimes received and signed the executive order to reorganize Kentucky's Education Board at 1:20 a.m. Tuesday.
New board members were appointed in the executive order. They include Holly Bloodworth, Patrice McCrary, Mike Bowling, Sharon Porter Robinson, Lu Young, JoAnn Adams, Cody Pauley Johnson, Lee Todd, David Karem, Claire Batt and Alvis Johnson.
“This morning, I reorganized the state board of education and appointed new members who support public education,” said Gov. Beshear. “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.”
“Andy and I promised to bring educators to the table to help us move public education forward for our children and families,” Lt. Gov. Coleman said. “By resetting the Board of Education and including experts in the field as our first action, we are keeping our promise to prioritize education in the Commonwealth.”
During his inauguration address, Beshear promised to also include a $2,000 across-the-board raise in the budget for all teachers. He also mentioned fighting to keep health care coverage for Kentuckians with pre-existing conditions.
Eddie Campbell, President of the Kentucky Education Association, gave the following statement:
“The KEA supports Governor Beshear’s decision to reconstitute the Kentucky Board of Education. Under the previous Administration, board appointees were based more on political pedigree than on their experience and knowledge of educational issues. We have confidence that the Beshear Administration will make appointments based on merit, and choose board members who possess a foundational understanding of the challenges facing public education in the Commonwealth. The students of Kentucky deserve a board of education that works for the improvement of public education and not for partisan purposes.”
Not long after the executive order was announced Tuesday afternoon, the current members of the Kentucky Board of Education filed a lawsuit challenging Beshear's order.
“We strongly feel that this action by the governor is of questionable legality and must be tested in the courts,” said KBE member Dr. Gary Houchens. “Unlike other Kentucky government boards, the make-up of the KBE is governed by the Kentucky Education Reform Act, which provides a clear process for a new governor to appoint new members to the KBE on a staggered basis, every two years. Board members today are seeking to set aside the governor’s order and allow an orderly transition of board control over a two year period, as intended by KERA.”
The current board filed their complaint Tuesday night. That complaint states Kentucky state law requires that members of the Board of Education may only be removed with "cause."
They argue Gov. Beshear's "cause" was not justified.
"The [Executive order] cites in a whereas provision in his Executive Order: 'Whereas, members of the current Kentucky Board of
Education have conflicting relationships, lack experience in public education, failed to conduct a nationwide search before appointing the Commissioner of Education, and accepted plane tickets, hotel rooms, and conference fees from an organization closely tied to registered lobbyists of both the Kentucky Department of Education and the
Kentucky Board of Education.' Yet, no Member of the Board of Education has been questioned about any conflicting relationship; all members met the statutory requirements for membership; there was no statutory requirement that a nationwide search for commissioner be held; and any conferences that were attended upon the basis of scholarships were reviewed with the Ethics Commission prior to attending."
The current board also contends the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990 provides them unique protections from similar executive action.
In 2017, then-Attorney General Beshear sued former Governor Matt Bevin over his decision to completely disband and reform the University of Louisville Board of Trustees. In that case, the courts ended up siding with then-Governor Bevin.
Lundergan-Grimes also signed another executive order early Tuesday morning to appoint Colonel Haldane Lamberton as the Adjutant General.
You can read the two executive orders and the full statement from the current Board of Education members below. (If viewing on a mobile app, click the link to view additional content in a web browser.)