Bill to remake how Kentucky Board of Education members are selected passes state Senate

Published 10:11 am Monday, February 27, 2023

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By McKenna Horsley

Kentucky Lantern

Among their debates on the Kentucky Senate floor Thursday, senators questioned if the creation of a committee to nominate members to the Board of Education would bring more or less politics to the process.

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Senate Bill 107 seeks to create a nomination committee for the Kentucky Board of Education. The group would give recommendations to the governor for Board of Education appointments. The Senate voted 29-4 in favor.

Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, the primary sponsor, said on the floor that governors of both parties have used the board in a political way and referenced when Gov. Andy Beshear appointed new members to the Board of Education shortly after assuming office.

“It kind of removes the politics from him (the governor) being able to appoint somebody that he knows, that he really wants to be there,” Wilson said.

According to the text of the bill, the nominating committee would have seven members who represent each Supreme Court district. They would be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate. The nominating committee would give the governor three nominations to select gubernatorial appointments to the Kentucky Board of Education.

The governor would also have to follow guidelines in making appointments to the nominating committee, which are:

• “Equal representation of the two (2) sexes

• No less than proportional representation of the two (2) leading political parties of the Commonwealth based on the state’s voter registration; and

• The minority racial composition of the Commonwealth.”

“​​In making its nominations, the committee shall consider the needs of the Kentucky Board of Education, locate potential appointees, review candidates’ qualifications and references, conduct interviews, and carry out other search and screening activities as necessary,” the bill says.

The commissioner of education would also be subject to Senate confirmation and annual review by the Kentucky Board of Education in closed executive sessions. The bill also calls for the education commissioner to serve for a defined employment contract with terms to not exceed four years.

The committee substitute version added an emergency clause to the bill, which means that it goes into effect immediately upon becoming law. It next goes to the House.

“I think you are potentially politicizing a process that should as much as possible be apolitical,” said Sen. Karen Berg, D-Louisville, before she voted against the bill.

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said in a floor speech that Democrats introduced a similar measure for university boards when they controlled the executive branch and both chambers.