Beshear credits win to teachers; local board races decided
Kentucky School Advocate
By Brenna R. Kelly
In less than nine months, Kentucky teachers have gone from marching on the state Capitol in protest, to marching to the Capitol as grand marshals in the governor’s inauguration parade.
“To our educators, this is your victory,” Gov.-elect Andy Beshear proclaimed on election night as he celebrated his win over incumbent Matt Bevin.
During the campaign and as Beshear has begun to form his administration, public education and teachers have been at the forefront.
“Our educators were out there and involved. They were talking to their neighbors, their friends, they held events all across Kentucky …talking about the importance of this election really making public education a spotlight in this campaign,” Eddie Campbell, president of the Kentucky Education Association, said in an appearance on WKYT’s Kentucky Newsmakers.
Now that the election is over, Gov.-elect Beshear is making good on his promise to change the narrative around public education and give Kentucky educators a seat at the table. Beshear invited teachers to be grand marshals at the Dec. 10 inauguration parade and named many educators to his education-focus transition team.
Among those who will guide hiring and policy for the Education and Workforce Cabinet are Jefferson County School Board member Corrie Shull, who was named co-chair, and three superintendents – Fort Thomas Ind.’s Karen Cheser, Eminence Ind.’s Buddy Berry and Frankfort Ind.’s Houston Barber.
Since his election, Beshear has also repeated his campaign pledge to replace the 11-member state board of education. Though the current members' terms are not up, Beshear has said he plans to use a judge’s decision that the governor has the right to remake boards.
The Kentucky Board of Education employs the commissioner of education, a role currently held by Wayne Lewis. Lewis told the state’s largest newspaper that he believes Beshear’s attempt to replace the board would result in a lawsuit and that he does not plan to resign.
Beshear has also pledged to give teachers a $2,000 raise and to not sign a budget that does not prioritize public education. The budget session of the General Assembly will begin Jan. 8. Local school board, nickel tax
In addition to the governor’s race, more than 30 school board seats were on the ballot. The off-year elections were needed to fill seats being held by members who were appointed, either by the commissioner of education or the board, after an elected member resigned.
Of the 26 commissioner appointees, three who filed were not re-elected, and one person who was appointed did not seek the seat. Of the board appointed seats, two appointees won election, one lost her appointed seat and four appointed seats were not placed on the ballot.
Unlike in a regular election, members who were elected to fill unexpired terms are to be sworn in as soon as the county board of elections certifies the results.
In Fayette County, Christy Morris (right) was sworn in on Nov. 12 – one week after the election – to the seat she won over incumbent Will Nash. Nash, who was appointed to the seat in November 2018 by the commissioner, made news during the campaign by sending texts and a mailer using district parent contact information.
In Jefferson County, incumbent Joe Marshall, who was appointed by the Jefferson County school board in August, successfully defended his seat against six challengers. When the board filled the seat, it required those applying to also file for election.
When the Bullitt County board filled its vacancy in September, the board chose the name out of a hat after deciding all four applicants were qualified and that because all four had filed for election, it did not want to appear to be endorsing a candidate.
In the election, the appointee, Shannon Cummings, lost to former state representative Linda Belcher (right). Belcher, a former teacher, has been elected four times to the state House, but was defeated in 2018.
In Marion County, appointee William Cox will be replaced by Jim Eubank who won over Cox. In Cloverport Ind., Misty Woods, who was appointed to the seat in April, lost to Laura Sims who received 70 percent of the vote.
Not all appointees opted to run for election. In Lincoln County, appointee Ethan Jones did not run and will be replaced by Bruce Smith, the district’s former director of pupil personnel, who defeated Michael Gourley in the race.
In Campbell County, appointee Susan Dunn did not file for the seat she was appointed to in August 2018. Longtime northern Kentucky high school sports administrator and Holmes High School (Covington Ind.) athletic director Stan Steidel filed as a write in, however Steidel, 78, died in a car accident the day before the election. The Campbell County board will now have to appoint someone to fill the seat.
A proposed nickel tax in Christian County failed by a 2 to 1 margin. The tax, passed by the board in February, was intended to fund new buildings for Hopkinsville and Christian County high schools, however residents defeated the tax with 9,301 residents, 66 percent, voting against.
The district’s nickel tax was the only one in the state on the ballot after Graves County and Clinton County decided to rescind their proposed nickel taxes. At least five other districts enacted a nickel tax this year without incurring a recall petition.