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Beshear Sued on First Day as Governor by Ousted Kentucky School Board

Governor Andy Beshear, inaugurated on Tuesday, is facing the threat of a lawsuit on his first day in office.

Beshear issued an executive order reorganizing the Kentucky Board of Education. Members of the previous board announced shortly afterwards that they would sue the governor over the decision.

In the order, Beshear cited what he called "conflicting relationships, lack of experience in public education" and a failure to conduct a national search before hiring current Kentucky Commissioner of Education Wayne Lewis. He announced eleven new board members, seven to represent individual Supreme Court districts, and four at-large.

David Karem, of Louisville, will serve as chairman of the board, Beshear said in his order. 

The new board is expected to dismiss Lewis and conduct a search for a replacement.

Members of the ousted board argue that Beshear is violating state law.

“Obviously the governor has the right to appoint any person to the board who meets the qualifications. But this needs to be done legally," said Rich Gimmel, one of the ousted board members. "There is an established, orderly process for board transition that is spelled out in state law. That process has been followed by every governor since (Kentucky Education Reform Act) was passed in 1990, until now.

"We were hopeful the new governor would make good on his promise to change the tone in Frankfort and create a more cooperative atmosphere, welcoming and respecting various viewpoints. He doesn’t appear to be off to a particularly good start in that effort.”

Gimmel said the lawsuit against Beshear is expected to be filed Tuesday evening. 

"The Kentucky Supreme Court has upheld the right of governors to reorganize state boards. But Kentucky law also explicitly carves out protections for members of the Kentucky Board of Education and the Council for Post-Secondary Education, stipulating that members of these boards may not be removed prior to the ends of their terms without cause," the ousted board said in a statement to the media.

Governor Matt Bevin previously appointed all the members of the ousted board.

Beshear's decision received support from the Kentucky Education Association.

“The KEA supports Governor 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," said Eddie Campbell, President, Kentucky Education Association. "The students of Kentucky deserve a board of education that works for the improvement of public education and not for partisan purposes.”

-Staff report