10 ousted board of education members file suit over Beshear order

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) -- Shortly after Gov. Andy Beshear announced he was reorganizing the Kentucky Board of Education with new members, 10 members of the current board said they would challenge the action in court.

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.

“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.

“Gov. Andy Beshear is taking an action which is unprecedented since the passage of KERA nearly three decades ago,” Houchens said. “Every elected governor since then has followed the legally defined means for replacing board members. Gov. Bevin was in office for more than two years with a board largely comprised of appointees of Gov. Steve Beshear.”

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.”

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