When Democrat Andy Beshear defeated Kentucky Republican Governor Matt Bevin last November it was seen as a defeat for Donald Trump in a sold red state.
Although that is a fair interpretation, there were local issues that played a role in Bevin’s defeat, education and public pensions among them.
On Tuesday Beshear signed an executive order Tuesday in his first day in office to create a new state school board. The displaced board members promptly said they would file a lawsuit.
Beshear has said for weeks he would act quickly when he took office to dismiss the state Board of Education.
Eddie Campbell, president of the Kentucky Education Association, which backed Beshear’s campaign, said, “The KEA supports Gov. 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.”
Beshear named David Karem, a former lawmaker and state board member, as temporary chairman of the new board.
He also appointed Holly Bloodworth of Murray, 2014 Kentucky Teacher of the Year and instructor of elementary education program at Murray State University; retired teacher Patrice McCrary of Bowling Green; Middlesboro attorney and former state Rep. Mike Bowling; Sharon Porter Robinson of Louisville, a former assistant secretary of the U.S Department of Education; Lu Young of Nicholasville, former Jessamine County schools superintendent; former University of Kentucky President Lee Todd of Lexington; former state Sen. David Karem of Louisville; Claire Batt of Lexington, an elementary school teacher; Alvis Johnson of Harrodsburg, the 1996 runnerup for Walt Disney Teacher of the Year and former UK assistant athletic director; JoAnn Adams of Pleasureville; and Cody Pauley Johnson of Pikeville.
Beshear appointed Rowan County teacher Allison Slone as a non-voting member.
I asked my friend, Kentucky teacher and pension activist Randy Wieck for his reaction.
In ordering the dismissal of the 11 current members of Kentucky’s Board of Education, New Kentucky Governor Beshear has certainly tipped his hat to Kentucky’s public school teachers.
It remains to be seen, however, how the newly threatened lawsuit by 10 of the dismissed members to block the governor’s executive order will be decided by the courts.
Current Bevin-appointed Commissioner Wayne Lewis, he of only slight, and very questionable experience (3 years’s teaching; one-two years’ so-called “administration”) – has pledged to hang on to his job by any means necessary, even though Lewis was not chosen through any national search, while the former Commissioner Pruitt was. Lewis has proven to be no fan of teachers: he threatened us with firing, and $1000/day fines for protesting the famous “Sewer” pension reform bill which was intended to douse us with smelly pension effluent. Not a smart move, but we KY teachers didn’t expect anything else from this current commissioner once we got a whiff of what he was about.
The courts in Kentucky have ruled, as in the case of ex-governor Bevin, that the governor certainly can manipulate the composition of the board, and this should also apply to the gander, as it did to the goose (who was cooked in the recent election).
Looming over the entire scene, of course, is the pall of education-hostile Republican super-majorities in both houses of the KY legislature. If they hang together, Beshear may find his initiatives hung up by their unity.
One interesting side note: now that the Republicans have lost the governorship, they MAY be open to legislation opening the books on the fat, illegal, and secret lobbyist-funding alternative/private equity contracts signed, and concealed by the two largest pension plans, one of which is the teachers’ TRS. These contracts permit the funneling of dark money to KY politicians, and to corrupt teacher association leaders in this state – which tend to support Democrats – and now that the shoe is on the other foot, Republican-favored (!) transparency may cause this dark money gravy-train to be stopped in its tracks – cutting off much-needed dark PAC funding to the new governor’s re-election in four years.