Republican lawmaker wants audit of KY Dept. of Education to determine ‘lack of efficiency’

A bill has been filed by the House Education Committee chairman requiring a state audit of the Kentucky Department of Education to determine if it is complying with state mandates.

House Bill 825, sponsored by State Rep. James Tipton, R-Taylorsville, also would result in an audit of the Kentucky School for the Deaf, the Kentucky School for the Blind — which the department oversees — and department-operated area technology centers.

The examination would identify any area of operation “demonstrating a significant lack of efficiency and effectiveness,” the legislation said.

Under the bill, the audit report would have to be submitted to the General Assembly’s Interim Joint Committee by July 1, 2025. The bill states the report “shall include recommendations on how the fiscal controls and operations of the Kentucky Department of Education may be improved.”

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said Tuesday morning that he hadn’t fully reviewed the bill but wasn’t surprised by its filing.

“Every now and then, everybody needs to be looked at,” Stivers said.

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The legislation is the latest Republican sponsored bill aimed at more oversight of the state education department and board of education.

The 2023 General Assembly passed a law that, for the first time, requires the Kentucky Senate, which is currently Republican-led, to confirm the state education commissioner appointment.

The performance of the education commissioner would also be examined under House Bill 825.

The Commissioner of Education is the chief state school officer and oversees the daily operations of the Kentucky Department of Education and acts as superintendent of the Kentucky School for the Blind, the Kentucky School for the Deaf and the 50 area technology centers.

The state is now taking applications for that post.

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While the commissioner is subject to Senate confirmation, Stivers said that it’s possible the Senate could suspend the law requiring confirmation during this session — potentially kicking it to next year’s session — depending on the timing of a hire.

In 2023, former commissioner Jason Glass came under fire for his stance against Senate Bill 150, a bill banning gender-affirming care for minors that drew heavy protest from pro-LGBTQ rights groups. He cited the bill’s passage as a reason he left the state to become an associate vice-president at Western Michigan University.

Tipton did not immediately comment on the bill Tuesday morning.

Interim Commissioner of Education Robin Fields Kinney said the Department takes the responsibility as the steward of funding seriously and welcomes findings that help “improve our processes.”

KDE participates in various financial audits and performance audits each year, Kinney said.

”Understandably, by the nature of any audit, time spent by staff in assisting auditors impacts the level of service in day-to-day operations for local school districts and other interested constituents,” said Kinney. “However, in the event HB 825 is passed by the General Assembly, KDE will be available and responsive to the work of the (state auditor), as is our practice in audits already conducted on a regular basis.”