Beshear Anticipates Difficulty in Finding New Education Chief Amid Political Backlash

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear expressed concerns on Wednesday about the potential difficulties in finding a new education chief, following the political backlash faced by the outgoing commissioner, the Associated Press’s Bruce Schreiner reports.

Gov. Andy Beshear Team Kentucky Update 8.02.23
Beshear expressed the concerns at his August 2 Team Kentucky update.

Education Commissioner Jason Glass, who has been a subject of continuous criticism from prominent Republicans over transgender policies in schools, announced on Monday that he will be stepping down on September 29. Glass, a third-generation Kentucky educator, will be taking up the position of associate vice president of teaching and learning at Western Michigan University.

The Kentucky Board of Education is scheduled to meet later this month to discuss the next steps and establish a timeline for appointing an interim commissioner once Glass departs.

Beshear, a Democrat, stated at his weekly news conference that the circumstances surrounding Glass’s departure would make the search for a permanent successor more challenging. The education commissioner is responsible for overseeing the state’s K-12 school system and its 635,000 students.

Glass has been frequently criticized by the GOP for defending the state education department’s previous guidance, which encouraged school districts to respect the pronouns and names of transgender students.

Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who is challenging Beshear in the upcoming November election, has been vocal in his criticism of Glass, often linking the education chief to the governor in his campaign speeches.

Beshear responded on Wednesday, stating that such attacks were based on “the politics of the day” and pledged to work through the damage caused by the attorney general and others in their ability to recruit the best candidates.

The governor has also faced criticism from the GOP for vetoing comprehensive transgender legislation, which included a ban on gender-affirming care for children. The Republican-dominated legislature overrode the veto.

Glass cited the transgender law as a reason for his departure, stating that he did not want to be part of implementing a measure he described as “dangerous and unconstitutional.”

State Senator Mike Wilson, a member of the Senate GOP leadership, stated that the next education commissioner will face the challenge of addressing historic levels of student learning loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He also provided input on the upcoming searches for an interim and permanent education commissioner.

In a recent development, lawmakers passed a measure this year that will require the successors of Glass as education commissioner to be confirmed by the Republican-dominated state Senate.

Political backlash against education commissioners is not a new occurrence in Kentucky. After taking office as governor in late 2019, Beshear restructured the state Board of Education, which led to the departure of the education commissioner at the time. Beshear had expressed objections to the previous board’s support for charter schools.

Photo: Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear speaks at his August 2 Team Kentucky update. (YouTube screenshot)