Republicans and Democrats futilely oppose partisan Kentucky school board elections bill Skip to content

Republicans and Democrats futilely oppose partisan Kentucky school board elections bill

House can now consider Senate Bill 8

Senate Republican Whip Mike Wilson, of Bowling Green, listens to debate on one of his bills. (Kentucky Lantern photo by McKenna Horsley)

More than a dozen senators — both Republican and Democratic — voted against a bill that would create partisan Kentucky Board of Education elections, but the measure ultimately passed the Senate Tuesday. 

In a vote of 24-14, the Republican-controlled Senate approved a bill that would transform the appointed board into an elected one. The legislation now goes to the House for consideration. 

The Senate’s seven Democrats were joined by Republican Sens. Jared Carpenter, David Givens, Jason Howell, Brandon Smith, Johnnie Turner, Whitney Westerfield, and Phillip Wheeler in opposing Senate Bill 8.

The bill’s sponsor, Senate Republican Whip Mike Wilson, of Bowling Green, has said the bill would give voters a direct say in electing members of the board, which oversees Kentucky’s public K-12 education system. 

Wilson said on the Senate floor Tuesday that moving to elections for the state board would increase rural representation among its members. 

“This bill is the result of years of watching appointments to the state board used as political favors to gain political control, and we’ve seen it on both sides of the aisle,” he said. 

Currently, the 15-member board is made up of 11 voting members who are appointed by the governos and confirmed by the Senate and four non-voting members. 

Under Wilson’s bill, board members would be elected from each of Kentucky’s seven Supreme Court districts starting in 2026. Ex-officio members, such as the heads of the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet and the Council on Postsecondary Education would remain on the board. Teacher and student representatives would continue to serve on the board for a year. The education commissioner could break tied votes on the board.

The General Assembly previously changed membership requirements for the board in 2021 to reflect Kentucky’s makeup in gender, race, and political affiliation. The move came after Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear appointed all-new members to the KBE in 2019, ousting all of the appointees of his predecessor, Republican Gov. Matt Bevin.

Jennifer Ginn, a spokesperson for the Kentucky Department of Education previously said in a statement the current KBE reflects the 2021 changes “and the positive effect of this shift is evident in the valuable and unique perspective each member brings to the KBE.”

Beshear has previously voiced opposition to the bill, saying it is a “terrible idea.” Since his November reelection, Beshear has regularly denounced hyper-partisan politics. 

Sen. Cassie Chambers Armstrong (D-Louisville) spoke against the bill in the Senate. She had opposed the bill in a committee last week and said the changes made in 2021 were a “good approach” to ensuring diversity of experiences and perspectives on the state board. 

“I believe that party politics have no place in our Kentucky classrooms,” she said. “We took politics out of our classrooms in the 1990s when we enacted KERA, and I believe that was a good decision.” 

KERA, or the Kentucky Education Reform Act, is a landmark piece of legislation that sought to remove nepotism and political corruption from Kentucky’s education system and to increase and equalize funding for public schools.

The Senate adopted a floor amendment by Wilson that changes candidate eligibility requirements.


Written by McKenna Horsley. Cross-posted from the Kentucky Lantern.

Print Friendly and PDF

Kentucky Lantern

The Kentucky Lantern is an independent, nonpartisan, free news service. We’re based in Frankfort a short walk from the Capitol, but all of Kentucky is our beat.



The Abortion Ban Path of Totality

The Abortion Ban Path of Totality

After the eclipse earlier this week, we all know what the term “path of totality” means. Ben Fishel applies that term to another path, that of total bans on abortion.

Members Public