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Judge: Beshear's Board Of Education Can Meet

Photo by J. Tyler Franklin

A circuit judge has denied a petition filed by former members of the Kentucky Board of Education for a temporary restraining order. The board members filed the petition Tuesday, immediately after new Governor Andy Beshear signed an executive order overhauling the Board of Education.

Without the injunction, Beshear’s new board is free to meet as planned Thursday morning, where members will likely fire current Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis.

During his inaugural address Tuesday, Beshear said the overhaul was done in an effort to ensure every member of the board was committed to public education.

“These members were not chosen based on any partisan affiliation, but based on their commitment to make our schools better. To put our children first,” Beshear said during his speech Tuesday.

But the members of the previous board — all of whom were appointed by Gov. Matt Bevin when other members’ terms expired — objected. In the motion filed Tuesday in Franklin Circuit Court, they argued Beshear didn’t have the legal authority to appoint members in one fell swoop this way.

“Simply put, the Governor has attempted to make good on promises he made during his campaign for Governor that he knew, or at least should have known, were legally impossible,” according to the complaint.

In an interview with WFPL on Tuesday, former board member Gary Houchens said he believed Beshear had violated the Kentucky Education Reform Act, which was passed in 1990 and provides a clear process to appoint new members to the board. But Houchens said he also believes there’s an important principle at stake, too:

“And that principle is there should be a buffer between the governance of the K-12 education system and the more brutal elements of partisan politics,” he said.

With the denial of Franklin Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wingate on Wednesday to consider the motion for an injunction, the new Beshear-appointed board is scheduled to meet Thursday. The only items on the agenda include discussing dismissing current Commissioner of Education Wayne Lewis, and then possibly terminating Lewis and installing a replacement.

The attorneys for the former Board of Education say they’ll appeal Wingate’s decision.