The president of the Kentucky Education Association said Gov. Matt Bevin is continuing an agenda to undo education reforms in transferring the administrative functions of the teacher certification and preparation process to the Kentucky Department of Education.
Thursday, KEA President Stephanie Winkler said it returns, “political cronyism to Kentucky’s education agencies.”
However, Kentucky Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis said in a news release that he applauded the creation of a new office within the agency that will serve as the administrative arm of the Education Professional Standards Board which was previously under the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet.
The creation of the new office comes as a result of an executive order signed by Bevin Wednesday.
KEA President Stephanie Winkler said KEA does not support the move.
“This move eliminates the independence of the teacher preparation and certification process and puts teachers and teacher preparation programs overtly at the mercy of Bevin political appointees,” she said.
“Making new appointments to existing boards between legislative sessions is one thing, but completely abolishing statutory boards created by the Kentucky General Assembly is a blatant overreach and amounts to Bevin legislating from the Governor’s mansion,” said Winkler. The governor “clearly has no respect for the doctrine of separation of powers and continues his pattern of ignoring the will of the people by completely disregarding the Kentucky Constitution,” she added.
Elizabeth Kuhn, a spokeswoman for the Bevin, responded Thursday saying KEA’s misunderstands the move and its “continued efforts to spread misinformation” does little more than “expose the true political cronyism that exists among its own leadership.”
“If KEA bothered to look at the facts, they would see that Gov. Bevin’s executive order simply moves EPSB from a cabinet of state government to the Kentucky Department of Education, which is an independent agency,” Kuhn said. The move, “will allow for more effective policy making and more efficient oversight of the certification process for educators.”
Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear criticized Bevin’s move. Beshear, a Democrat elected attorney general in 2015, has announced that he will run for Governor. Bevin, a Republican, has not yet said whether he’ll seek re-election.
“This week Gov. Bevin continued his attack on public education and our public school teachers,” Beshear said. “Through executive order, he has once again tried to rewrite the laws on the EPSB, the board that determines who teaches our children. All Kentuckians should be fed up with these ongoing attacks and power grab.”
The order calls for the Commissioner of Education to hire and oversee an executive director of the office. Lewis selected former Woodford County High School Principal Rob Akers to fill the position. Akers joined the state department Wednesday.
Lewis added Thursday, “KEA should be mindful that member of the EPSB board have been appointees of the governor since its inception. As such, current board members have been appointed by Gov. Bevin. Within the executive order, that board remains in place and its authority is the same.”
Last November, Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate ruled that Bevin could reorganize several education boards but part of his restructuring of the Education Professional Standards Board was unconstitutional.
Bevin removed a provision that allows teachers to appeal board decisions to the court system. Bevin wanted appeals to go to the state Board of Education.
“The imposition of completely new appellate procedures exceeds the governor’s power and violates the Kentucky Constitution,” Wingate said.