I already wrote about the 2016 appointees to the Kentucky Board of Education. Unfortunately, they're already confirmed. But now we have a chance to make our voices heard about the confirmation of the 2018 appointees, who are up to be confirmed on the last day of the General Assembly.
Here are the 2018 nominees scheduled to be confirmed and their ties to undermining public education.
If there is a ground zero for charters and education privatization in Kentucky, it's probably Hal Heiner. Heiner has been attacking JCPS for years, and was fond of spouting the fiction that 30,000 out of 100,000 JCPS kids would not graduate. Heiner founded Kentuckians Advocating Education Reform in Kentucky with Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis back in August of 2011, and a few months later he founded Kentucky Coalition for Education Reform with JCPS critic and Kentucky Pastors in Action Coalition founder, Jerry Stephenson Both Stephenson and Heiner have been active in opposing LGBT rights in Louisville.
Heiner also has a vested interest in scholarship tax credits as a former chairman of Christian Academy of Louisville. Heiner was made chairman after a rule change this year that allowed first term members to become chairman. Heiner is not an educator.
Ben Cundiff is tied to two Tennessee charter schools, East End Prep, and Explore!. In 2018, a WDRB investigation into e-mails from the Kentucky Board of Education contained this gem it found in an e-mail from Ben Cundiff.
“I just told Hal yesterday that I will sign up for four more years, but if charters are dead I may renege and go out in a blaze of public name-calling on the teachers’ unions,” Cundiff wrote, apparently referencing then-Education and Workforce Development Cabinet Secretary Hal Heiner, who now serves on the state education board.
“This is a big deal for me, as I know it is for you at least as much. I feel that the teachers, of all people, just murdered the underserved kids of Louisville and Lexington, in one of the most hypocritical acts I’ve ever seen.”
Dare I mention that Cundiff also is not an educator. And that he doesn't live in Louisville or Lexington?
Last week Gary Houchens publicly attacked teachers for protesting in Frankfort in a series of tweets. He also has called teachers hypocrites for not protesting a bill that gives tax breaks that will reduce Kentucky's revenue. Unlike most on the board, he is an educator, with experience in both private and public schools. But he's been tie d to Kentucky Board of Education members Hal Heiner, Milton Seymore, and Commissioner Wayne Lewis for years in pushing charter schools. He's also listed as a director of EdChoice Kentucky. EdChoice is a group devoted to the privatization of education. It is also a member of the State Policy Network, a collection of conservative and libertarian "think" tanks that have worked to push an Astroturfed message in support of education privatization among other issues. The State Policy Network receives much of its funding from extremely wealthy individuals and groups outside of our state, including the Koch Brothers from Kansas.
In addition to being a part of EdChoice Kentucky, Houchens has been a "scholar" for the Bluegrass Institute, another member of the State Policy Network, and serves as an education advisor for the Pegasus Institute, a Koch aligned "think" tank.
Kathy Gornik is another former member of the Bluegrass Institute. She also is a Tea Party activist who has no love for government institutions like public education. Her public stances are downright disturbing though. For instance, she defended Rand Paul for saying he would not have voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act. She also has attacked diversity initiatives and even drunk driving laws on her Facebook page. And she has attacked the sound science of climate change (See below). It's frightening to think someone who denies science and considers diversity to be a problem is making policy for education.
Not much information is available on Laura Timberlake, but from an interview, it appears that Laura is at least a public school parent with concerns about getting resources to school children.
Again, not much is known about Tracey Cusick, but she is described in the Courier Journal as a mother of 10 who, " has a background in homeschooling, private schools and public schools."
Joe Papalia is also a wild card. It appears he donated about $2600 to Bevin back in 2013 and my understanding is his kids are in private school.
Governor Bevin has already done much to hurt public schools, their students, and their teachers in his term. Please send your legislators a message that you do not want to see this board confirmed to make things even worse.