Quick Takes

Beshear: It will be ‘much more challenging’ to replace education commissioner after Glass leaves

By: - August 2, 2023 5:18 pm

Kentucky Education Commissioner Jason Glass addresses reporters’ after a student advisory council’s presentation on school safety measures. (Photo for the Kentucky Lantern by McKenna Horsley)

Gov. Andy Beshear says it will be difficult to find a new education commissioner after the current one announced this week he is leaving because of political pressure. 

Beshear, an incumbent Democrat who is seeking reelection, told reporters Wednesday that the departure of Education Commissioner Jason Glass will not affect the governor’s campaign. It will, however, impact “our ability to get the very best education commissioner for the people of Kentucky,” Beshear said. 

Glass, who will leave the department in September, said Tuesday he did not want “to be part of implementing the dangerous and unconstitutional anti-LGBTQI,” Senate Bill 150

The controversial law, passed by the Republican-controlled legislature this year, limits how schools can teach about human sexuality and gender identity and who can use which bathrooms, while freeing adult staff to misgender students. The General Assembly overturned Beshear’s veto. 

In recent months, Glass has come under frequent fire from Republicans in Frankfort for the Kentucky Department of Education’s inclusive stances toward LGBTQ+ students, particularly transgender students. 

Most recently, the department updated guidance advising school districts they seemingly have a choice between not teaching students in fifth grade and below about human sexuality or sexually transmitted diseases and not giving instruction on exploring gender identity, expression or sexual orientation to any students.

Also this year, the General Assembly passed a law subjecting future education commissioner appointees to Senate confirmation. Beshear vetoed that too, but it was overridden. 

Beshear, whose children attend public schools, said the search for Glass’ replacement will be “much more challenging” this time. In the past, the legislature took steps, such as adopting the Kentucky Education Reform Act more than 30 years ago, to shield the education commissioner and KDE from political interference. 

“And sadly, the politics of the day are about not just attacking Jason Glass, but accusing classroom teachers all over the state of doing things that, of course, they’re not doing,” Beshear said. 

Glass was appointed as commissioner by the Kentucky Board of Education in 2020. His four-year contract was to end in September 2024. After his last day with KDE, which is Sept. 29, he will become the associate vice president of teaching and learning at Western Michigan University. 

After news of Glass’ departure broke, Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron said in a statement, “One down, one to go.” Cameron, Beshear’s gubernatorial opponent, has criticized Glass on the campaign trail for saying teachers should follow their school districts’ policies when addressing transgender students as part of their employment.

Beshear previously said in a statement that he will call on the Kentucky Board of Education to conduct a national search for Glass’ replacement. 

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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.