For Immediate Release: Friday, January 17, 2020
Contact: Dr. Gary Houchens (270) 799-9081 or Jim Waters (270) 320-4376
(FRANKFORT, Ky.) – Today members of the Kentucky Board of Education who were illegally removed from office by an executive order from Gov. Andy Beshear announced a new partnership with the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, a free-market think tank, in taking legal action to address their removal from the board.
“We are delighted to work with the Bluegrass Institute in this important cause,” said the board members’ spokesperson, Dr. Gary Houchens. “Moving forward, the institute will provide financial and legal support as we continue to petition the courts to overturn the governor’s executive order.”
“For many years the Bluegrass Institute has demonstrated its commitment to education reform and improvement, as well as transparency and integrity in government,” Houchens said. “We are pleased to have them as partners.”
Attorneys for the board members and the Bluegrass Institute have withdrawn the board members’ original Circuit Court lawsuit against the governor and filed a case in federal court this afternoon.
“In addition to our contention that the executive order violates Kentucky law, we believe the governor’s actions violate the constitutional separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches, and also denied board members their right to due process,” Houchens said.
“Teachers who are removed from their positions without cause are guaranteed due process,” he continued. “We were terminated from our board positions for purely political reasons and should have been afforded the same protections as our teaching peers.”
Bluegrass Institute president and CEO Jim Waters said the organization supports the board members’ lawsuit because Beshear’s actions set a terrible precedent.
“Kentucky law is very clear that members of the state Board of Education cannot be removed from office without cause prior to the end of their terms,” Waters said. “The governor’s executive order is an abuse of power and permanently undermines the independence of the board and the Kentucky Department of Education it oversees.”
Unlike board reorganizations during previous administrations, these members were removed before their terms expired and without cause, both of which violate KRS 63.080, Waters added.
Houchens and Waters called on the Kentucky General Assembly to consider statutory changes that would permanently and retroactively clarify what powers the governor has relative to the Kentucky Board of Education.
“The state’s education system is too important to be treated like a political football every time there is a change in administration,” Houchens said. “It’s time for the General Assembly to reassert the separation of powers and establish some limits on executive branch control of the Department of Education.”
For more information, please contact Dr. Gary Houchens at (270) 799-9081 or Jim Waters at firstname.lastname@example.org, 859.444.5630 ext. 102 (office) or 270.320.4376 (cell).