Education chief resigns as new board discusses removal

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky's education commissioner submitted his resignation on Thursday, handing new Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear what he wanted as he reshapes the top levels of management in the education system to reflect his distaste for charter schools.

The state's newly reorganized state school board accepted Wayne Lewis' conditional resignation at a special meeting.

Beshear set Lewis' removal in motion on Tuesday, when he disbanded the Kentucky Board of Education and then recreated it with 11 new members on his first day in office. During the campaign, Beshear said he hoped the reorganization would lead to Lewis'removal.

Ten former board members promptly sued to block their removal, but state judges refused to temporarily block the new governor's executive order.

Lewis' resignation was announced after the new board reconvened following a nearly three-hour break.

The board went into the closed-door session to discuss Lewis' future.

The new board's chairman, David Karem, said during the open portion of the meeting that the new governor had assembled a board whose members are “deeply committed” to public education.

"I feel that what Gov. Beshear has done as far as reforming the Kentucky Board of Education is 100 % in keeping with the mission of Kentucky education reform,"said Karem, a former longtime state lawmaker.

The former board members were appointed by Beshear's predecessor, Republican Matt Bevin.

One member of the ousted board, Gary Houchens, attended the meeting. He later told reporters that the new board “was not legitimately appointed.”

Kentucky law, he said, protects state board of education members from removal before their terms end when there is no just cause for their dismissal.

Houchens said any suggestions that Lewis and the dismissed board members aren't committed to public education would be insulting.

“What it comes down to is that these previous board members are being accused of not being committed to public education because someone doesn't like some particular policy or political view that we may hold — a policy view that probably has very little bearing on our actual work as a board of education — and that's simply wrong,” he said.

Beshear’s deputy general counsel, Travis Mayo, said during Wednesday's hearing that the governor acted within his authority when he restructured the board.

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