FRANKFORT, Ky. (FOX 56) — Some Kentucky lawmakers believe there’s too much politics in the state’s education system. A bill that would add a senate confirmation process for Kentucky’s education commissioner is on its way to a second chamber vote by lawmakers.
“It was to be an independent agency not influenced by politics,” Sen. Mike Wilson (R-Bowling Green) told House Education committee lawmakers Monday.
Senate Bill 107 sponsor Wilson said he believes the executive branch has too much influence and the process lacks accountability.
“Just like we do with Fish and Wildlife commissioner — has to be confirmed by the Senate. This makes sure that the board still hires. They still hire. But then he has to be confirmed by the Senate,” Wilson said.
“How can this process be less political when a chamber with a supermajority has to confirm the commissioner? To me, that’s the essence of politics, that one chamber that has all the power and makes the decision, final decision,” Rep. Tina Bojanowski (D-Louisville) asked during the meeting.
The bill was filed shortly after Commissioner Jason Glass testified to lawmakers in early February about the state’s teacher shortage, where he was asked about his department’s pronoun guidance and if it’s contributing to educators leaving the system.
“I stand behind that statement, if a teacher cannot execute the policies of the district if they can’t execute the laws of the state or in our nation they do need to find something else to do,” Glass said during the Feb. 1 meeting.
That conversation has already found a place in the race for Kentucky’s governor in culture war talking points.
“Look, when you have a commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Education lecturing the state legislature on the pronouns that should be used in our school systems our state government has to respond to that,” Attorney General Daniel Cameron, a candidate for governor, said during a debate on Spectrum News One.
Responding to the political outcry on pronouns, Glass said a district or teacher can ignore the guidance if they choose and that workload and mental health pressures are bigger priorities for teachers. The bill passed committee on party lines and now heads to a vote in the House after already passing the Senate.
“Transgender students and individuals exist in our society, so it’s helpful for us to provide that guidance to schools. I would say that we’re not usurping parents’ right because it’s guidance, it has no force of law,” Glass told FOX 56 in February.
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If the bill passes the House, it will need to go back to the Senate to approve some changes before heading to the governor. The bill does not establish term limits for the commissioner, but they would have to go through a Senate confirmation every 4 years. A bill has also passed one chamber this year that would restrict the Kentucky Department of Education from issuing any guidance or rules on pronoun use.