KEA: Bevin's board changes 'back-door political maneuvering' to oust education commissioner

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - The Kentucky Education Association is calling Gov. Matt Bevin's move to appoint seven new members to the state Board of Education "back-door political maneuvering" to oust the state's education commissioner.

Commissioner of Education Dr. Stephen Pruitt

In a late afternoon Facebook post that was later revised, KEA questioned Bevin's decision and the calling of a special meeting Tuesday to elect new leaders and then hold an executive session to discuss "the appointment, discipline or dismissal of an individual employee."

The governor's appointments to the board of education include his Education and Workforce Development Cabinet Secretary Hal Heiner and his former communications director, Amanda Stamper.

"We believe that Heiner will be elected KBE Chair tomorrow and will immediately move to fire Commissioner of Education Dr. Stephen Pruitt," the KEA said in the Facebook post encouraging followers to take action. "If you believe as we do that Dr. Pruitt has been a strong and effective advocate for public schools and public school teachers and should continue to serve as our Commissioner, please share the image below."

KEA President Stephanie Winkler sat down with KET for "Kentucky Tonight" where she responded to the governor's appointments.

"All you have to do is look at the bios online of all the new board members and see how often the word "Bevin" comes up to know that there's a lot of people on that board who support things we do not support," Winkler said. "We have a constitutional right to support public education first and we should not be allowing businesses to come in and make profits off the back of our public schools. That is the agenda of our governor, that is the agenda of Hal Heiner – it always has been."

The education commissioner can only be hired and fired by the board of education. In his move Monday, Bevin replaced the remaining seven board members appointed by former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear.

Dr. Pruitt was in Louisville Monday night as part of a series of town hall meetings on education. In an interview with WLKY, he responded to comments made about the future of his position.

"I know that they're having a meeting and that they're going into executive session. That's literally all I know," Pruitt told WLKY. "Speculation runs rampant. I try to live my life in solid fact. I know that they're meeting and I know that they are going to be meeting about a personnel action and since I am the only personnel, we will see what happens."

In 2015, the board appointed Pruitt, a Georgia native, to the post. Before coming to Kentucky, Pruitt was senior vice president of a Washington-based nonprofit education reform organization called Achieve, Inc.

WKYT reached out to Gov. Bevin's office Monday night for comment but has not yet heard back.

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