The Kentucky state senate voted Wednesday night to confirm all but one of Gov. Andy Beshear’s 11 appointees for the Kentucky State Board of Education.
Senators voted not to confirm board chair David Karem, a former state lawmaker, and main driver behind the landmark Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990. Under state law, appointees who are not confirmed cannot serve again for two years, so Beshear will have to find a replacement.
The state board of education has been a stage for political battles in recent years. When Beshear took office in December 2019, one of his first acts as governor was to dissolve the board of education, which was filled with members appointed by his predecessor, former Gov. Matt Bevin. He then reformed the board with all new members, who are still currently serving. The Senate had until Wednesday, the last day of session, to confirm Beshear’s appointments.
Hours before the vote, Sen. Morgan McGarvey, a Democrat from Louisville, urged his Republican colleagues to put aside their distaste for Beshear’s actions, and confirm the board. Some Republicans had been pushing legislation to make the board bi-partisan, and take away the governor’s power to reorganize it.
“We are in the middle of a global pandemic with every school child in Kentucky not in class,” McGarvey said. “It is not the time for us to remove consistency.”
Republicans seemed to heed McGarvey’s warning in their decision to confirm the 10 school board members who will keep their seats and serve out their terms.
“Not a shining moment, but the process does work,” Sen. Damon Thayer, a Republican from Georgetown, said after the vote.
However, the 10 confirmed board members probably shouldn’t rest too easy. Thayer said he “looks forward to the next version” of legislation that would upend the board again next legislative session.
Additionally, the board still faces a federal lawsuit filed by the former board members ousted by Beshear.