Providing for the education of its citizens is arguably one of the most important functions of state government and one that consumes a big percentage of tax revenue.Given that importance, we hope the state Board of Education gets it right this time in selecting a new education commissioner.
The board is scheduled to meet today in Covington to interview the four finalists for the commissioner’s job - a post that has been open for a year now.
Kevin Noland, deputy commissioner and general counsel, has been serving as interim education commissioner.Noland has done a fine job since former commissioner Gene Wilhoit stepped down last November to take a job in Washington. The board hired a new commissioner earlier this year to succeed Wilhoit, but she was widely criticized and withdrew in mid-summer shortly before she was scheduled to begin. Questionable information in her resume' led to her problems.
There is a chance that after the 12-member board interviews the final contestants they may announce a new commissioner.We hope all four of these candidates are well qualified, but we agree with Gov.-elect Steve Beshear that perhaps more time is needed to conduct a search for a commissioner.
Beshear is concerned some qualified candidates may not have come forward in an election year and suggested the board reopen its search using a national search firm.We don’t see any problem with the board taking more time, but given the amount of time that has elapsed since Wilhoit’s departure, it shouldn’t be too protracted.
The 1990 Kentucky Education Reform Act established the commissioner’s job and created the board in a way designed to insulate it and the commissioner from political influence. Still, it would seem that wanting the best possible person in the position would transcend partisan politics.
Kentucky has made progress in education since KERA, but the number of freshman college students enrolled in remedial classes is a graphic reminder that much work still remains.We owe it to the state’s 650,000 students to have the right commissioner in place to meet their needs.