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Kentucky legislature votes Monday to confirm new education commissioner

Robbie Fletcher is expected to be confirmed by the state Senate as Kentucky's next education commissioner.
Lawrence County Public Schools
Robbie Fletcher is expected to be confirmed by the state Senate as Kentucky's next education commissioner.

Lawrence County Schools Superintendent Robbie Fletcher is poised to officially become Kentucky's next education commissioner. The Kentucky Senate is expected to confirm Fletcher to the post before adjourning the 2024 session on Monday.

Fletcher was hired by the Kentucky Board of Education in March following a national search to find a successor to Jason Glass who resigned last fall. The Republican-dominant General Assembly passed a law in 2023 requiring future education commissioners to be confirmed by the Senate.

The confirmation process began Friday when Fletcher appeared before the Senate Education Committee. He was asked about a school choice bill, HB 2, still pending on the final day of the session, which would allow the flow of public tax dollars to private, religious, and charter schools.

"I'm in favor of school choice," Fletcher responded. "My biggest question is funding. What does that funding mechanism look like? How does it affect SEEK? If it passes, our role is to make sure it impacts public education in a positive way and be beneficial to all students."

SEEK is the formula used to provide state funding to local school districts. If passed, the school choice question would go before Kentucky voters in the form of a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November.

With his confirmation looming, Fletcher received bipartisan support from members of the Senate Education Committee who said he would have their vote on the Senate floor when a resolution supporting his confirmation is called on Monday.

Republican Sen. Mike Wilson of Bowling Green sponsored SB 107, the bill mandating Senate confirmation of Fletcher and future education commissioners. As a member of the Senate Education Committee, Wilson stressed to Fletcher on Friday that he’s not under the governor’s authority.

"The legislature has the responsibility in the Constitution to provide for common schools," Wilson said." We make the policy and you have to implement our policy. Somehow that gets lost in communication. Every governor comes on and wants to be the governor of education and try to implement his policy."

Kentucky’s GOP-led General Assembly has had a contentious relationship with both Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear and former Education Commissioner Jason Glass. During his testimony on Friday, Fletcher was asked how he would work with Beshear.

“The governor is the governor and I need to have a good relationship with him. I need to hear everyone, but also, let’s talk about what’s best for kids," Fletcher said. "I think this group, our senators, our representatives, and I think our governor, will do that from time to time too.”

If confirmed, Fletcher’s first official day as education commissioner will be July 1.

The position has been open since the resignation of Commissioner Glass in September. Senate confirmation of the next education commissioner is one of several ways state lawmakers have tightened their grip in recent years on the Kentucky Department of Education and Gov. Beshear.

The 2024 General Assembly passed HB 825, which mandates an audit of the Kentucky Department of Education.

SB 8, passed by the Senate this session, would reorganize the state Board of Education. Members would become elected by voters rather than appointed by the governor. The fate of that legislation remains uncertain on the final day before adjournment.

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum. She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years. Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville. She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky. Many of her stories have been heard on NPR.