CLOSE

In an excerpt from his inaugural speech, the Kentucky governor emphasized teamwork between both sides of the aisle.
Louisville Courier Journal

Gov. Andy Beshear’s newly appointed state education board may not be able do anything — including potentially firing the Kentucky Education Commissioner — until a judge examines the situation further. 

Franklin Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wingate said Wednesday afternoon he will decide whether or not to issue a temporary restraining order preventing the Kentucky Board of Education’s new members from meeting.

Wingate said he expects to decide by 9 a.m. Thursday. The new board members are scheduled to meet an hour later in Frankfort. 

“The fact that they’re even meeting … that is irreplaceable harm that is obviously immediate,” Bart Greenwald, the attorney for the former board members, told Wingate. 

The board, if it is allowed to meet, is scheduled to discuss potentially removing Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis

Beshear, a Democrat, issued an executive order Tuesday dissolving the state board of education, which oversees Kentucky’s K-12 school system.

Ten members of the old board, all appointed by former Gov. Matt Bevin, then filed suit against Beshear and Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman.

As part of the suit, the former members asked the court to block the new board from meeting. 

Background: Kentucky’s new education board may give Wayne Lewis the boot before his contract ends

The complaint, filed late last night, alleges Beshear broke the law by removing Bevin’s board members before their terms ended — and without citing just cause for their removal. 

State law cited by the ousted board members suggests governors cannot recreate select state boards — including the Kentucky Board of Education — without clear cause. The provisions, they argue, are in place to prevent politicizing critical boards. 

Beshear, however, contends he is allowed to dissolve and recreate boards with new members through executive order. He points to Bevin’s reorganization of the Education Professional Standards Board, which was upheld by a judge after being challenged by Beshear himself, as precedent. 

For subscribers: Wayne Lewis could get fired. What to know about the Kentucky education board upheaval

That situation is not the same as dismantling the board of education, which works with Lewis to oversee Kentucky’s education system, the suit says. 

Greenwald, the attorney for the former board members, acknowledged the two situations are similar. But the key difference is that Beshear removed voting members without giving cause, he told Wingate. 

Travis Mayo, Beshear’s deputy general counsel, rebutted that his boss’ action was legal.

Greenwald brought up a second situation in which Bevin dismantled the University of Louisville’s board of trustees — an order ultimately struck down by a judge. 

In the U of L case, Bevin used an executive order to disband and recreate the university’s governing board. A judge said removing board members without cause set “a dangerous precedent that invites the abuse of power.” 

Wingate argued university boards are different than KBE. 

In Tuesday’s executive order, Beshear explained the removals but didn’t refer to it as cause.

Now former board members had “conflicting relationships” and “lack experience in education,” he wrote. Their decisions undermined public confidence in Kentucky’s education system, Beshear added. 

Kentucky law defines cause as gross neglect of board duties or malfeasance. 

This story will be updated.

Mandy McLaren: 502-582-4525; [email protected]; Twitter: @mandy_mclaren. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/mandym.

Read or Share this story: https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/education/2019/12/11/ousted-members-kentucky-board-education-granted-hearing/4398706002/