Kentucky Gov. Beshear claims search for education chief will be tougher due to backlash against predecessor

Kentucky’s search for a top-tier education chief will be more challenging after the political backlash experienced by the state’s departing education commissioner, Gov. Andy Beshear said Wednesday. Education Commissioner Jason Glass came under steady criticism from prominent Republicans over transgender policies in schools. Glass, a third-generation Kentucky educator, said Monday he will step down on Sept. 29 to become an associate vice president of teaching and learning at Western Michigan University. The Kentucky Board of Education plans to meet later this month to determine the next steps and a timeline for moving forward with an interim commissioner once Glass leaves. Beshear said the circumstances of Glass’ departure make the search for a permanent successor more difficult. The education commissioner oversees the state’s K-12 school system and its 635,000 students. “After this, it’s going to be much more challenging to find a good commissioner of education,” the Democratic governor said at his weekly news conference. KENTUCKY EDUCATION COMMISSIONER LEAVES FOR WESTERN MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY JOB Glass became a frequent target of GOP criticism for defending the state education department’s previous guidance encouraging school districts to honor transgender students’ pronouns and name. Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron, the GOP gubernatorial nominee who is challenging Beshear in the November election, condemned Glass in campaign speeches while linking the education chief to the governor. After Glass announced his pending departure, Cameron replied: “One down, one to go.” Beshear responded Wednesday that such attacks are based on “the politics of the day” — a reference to the GOP focus on transgender issues. The governor said he will “try to work through the damage that the attorney general and others have done here in our ability to recruit the very best.” Beshear has faced his own GOP attacks for vetoing sweeping transgender legislation, which included a ban on gender-affirming care for children. The Republican-dominated legislature overrode the veto. In his veto message, the governor said the measure allowed “too much government interference in personal healthcare issues.” Invoking his Christian faith, he said that “all children are children of God.” POPULAR DEMOCRAT GOVERNOR BREAKS WITH PARTY, SPEAKS OUT AGAINST SEX CHANGE SURGERIES FOR MINORS Transgender medical treatments have long been available in the United States and are endorsed by major medical associations. The measure also restricts how schools can address sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms and what bathrooms transgender students can use. And it allows teachers to refuse to refer to transgender students by the pronouns they use. Glass on Tuesday pointed to the transgender law for prompting his departure. He said he did not want to be a part of implementing such a “dangerous and unconstitutional” measure, media outlets reported. State Sen. Mike Wilson, a member of Senate GOP leadership, said the next education commissioner will face the challenge of historic levels of student learning loss stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. He also offered input on the upcoming searches for an interim and permanent education commissioner. “It is incumbent upon the next commissioner to initiate a new culture within the department and construct an environment reflective of Kentucky’s values,” Wilson said Monday in a statement. In a new twist, lawmakers passed a measure this year that will subject Glass’ successors as education commissioner to confirmation by the Republican-dominated state Senate. Political pushback against education commissioners isn’t a new phenomenon in Kentucky. Beshear overhauled the state Board of Education after taking office as governor in late 2019, which fulfilled a campaign promise and led to the departure of the education commissioner at the time. Beshear objected to what he saw as the previous board’s affinity for charter schools.
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