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Gov. Beshear issues Executive Order to reorganize Board of Education; ten ousted members file suit

First thing Tuesday morning at 1:20 a.m., the Kentucky Secretary of State received and signed the first Executive Orders of the new Beshear administration. One was the appointment of Colonel Haldane Lamberton as Adjutant General. And the second, more controversial but in keeping with his campaign promise, was the reorganization of Kentucky’s Board of Education.

Beshear announced that he had wielded his executive authority on day one to disband and then recreate the Kentucky Board of Education. Beshear, who had expressed concerns about the previous board’s affinity for charter schools, said he appointed new members committed to public education.

Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Michelle Keller gives oath of office to Beshear as his father, Steve, wife Brittany, daughter Lila and son Will look on. (Kentucky Today/AP pool/Timothy Easley)

“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,” Beshear said.
Beshear’s handpicked replacements could remove Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis. The new governor’s forceful action will be popular with many educators who believe the education board and commissioner have advocated for charter schools at the risk of hurting traditional public schools.

Beshear designated eleven members who would begin service immediately, including David Karem of Louisville as chair until the board can name a chair.

The new members are:

Representing Supreme Court Districts
Holly Bloodworth of Murray, Patrice McCray of Bowling Green, Mike Bowling of Middlesboro, Sharon Porter Robinson of Louisville, Lu Young of Nicholasville, JoAnn Adams of Pleasureville, and Cody Pauley Johnson of Pikeville.

Representing the State At Large
David Karen of Louisville, Lee Todd of Lexington, Claire Batt of Lexington, Alvis Johnson of Harrodsburg.

Ex officio nonvoting
Allison Slone, Morehead, an active teacher at McBrayer Elementary School.

Shortly after Gov. Andy Beshear announced he was reorganizing the Kentucky Board of Education with new members, 10 members of the current board took steps to challenge the action in court. They question Beshear’s authority to remove them before their terms expire.

During his inauguration speech, Beshear said, “This morning, I reorganized the state board of education and appointed new members who support public education. 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. Jacqueline 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.”

The lawsuit was announced shortly after the conclusion of the speech.

Gary Houchens

“We strongly feel that this action by the governor is of questionable legality and must be tested in the courts,” said board 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 Kentucky Education Reform Act.

Those members signing on to the court challenge were: board chair Hal Heiner, vice-chair Milton Seymore, Houchens, Ben Cundiff, Laura Timberlake, Tracey Cusick, Rich Gimmel, Kathy Gornik, Alesa Johnson and Joe Papalia.

Amanda Stamper, a one-time communications director for former Gov. Matt Bevin, did not sign.

The ousted members did not attack Beshear in announcing the lawsuit.

“We are certainly encouraged that Gov. Andy Beshear will bring a change from the divisive tone in Frankfort,” said Houchens. “Our goal in filing this motion is to work cooperatively with the new governor to continue the momentum already in place – not for our sake, but for the sake of Kentucky’s 650,000 public school students and their futures.”

Kentucky Today and Tribune staff contributed to this report.

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