Bill subjecting Kentucky education commissioner to Senate confirmation has cleared both chambers

By: - March 15, 2023 11:08 am

Speaker Pro Tem David Meade presided over the House earlier in the session. (Kentucky Lantern photo by Liam Niemeyer)

FRANKFORT — A bill that the head of the Kentucky Board of Education said would reverse decades of progress on education passed the House Tuesday. 

Representatives voted 80-20 in favor of  Senate Bill 107, a measure that would make the Kentucky education commissioner subject to confirmation by the Senate. Earlier this session, the Senate approved the legislation, 29-4. 

Supporters of the bill say it would remove politics from the Department of Education but others disagree, arguing that it would make it even more polarizing. 

Lu Young, chair of the Kentucky Board of Education (KBE), said in a Monday statement that she worries the bill “would reverse the progress we have made during the past three decades and return the state to a time when the leadership of Kentucky’s public schools was determined by political capital and connections, not professional experience.”

She added that the Kentucky Department of Education is independent now and her board is “unified in support of the way we select our state education chief.” 

While explaining a House committee substitute version of the bill, House Speaker Pro Tem David Meade, R-Stanford, said the bill originally “included dismantling of the Kentucky Department of Education Board and reassembling it” but that is now something to be worked on in the interim between legislative sessions. 

The bill was heard in the House Education Committee on Monday. There, the bill’s primary sponsor, Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, said the committee substitute version of the bill removed establishing a nominating committee for members of the Kentucky Board of Education. 

Wilson also said the process laid out in the bill is similar to that of the commissioner selection process for the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. 

“The General Assembly is elected by the people of this state and the commissioner of education affects our entire state with their decisions on education,” Meade said in the House. “So, the people need to have a voice in that and be ensured that their values are being represented in that position.” 

During floor discussion, Rep. Josie Raymond, D-Louisville, asked why another layer of “oversight or micromanagement” was needed as the Senate confirms appointments to the Board of Education who then hire the commissioner. Meade said “many of us believe” the commissioner should also be confirmed by the Senate. 

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

McKenna Horsley
McKenna Horsley

McKenna Horsley covers state politics for the Kentucky Lantern. She previously worked for newspapers in Huntington, West Virginia, and Frankfort, Kentucky. She is from northeastern Kentucky.