I have been saying for years that we should eliminate the Federal government’s Department of Education, for many reasons one being it is duplicated at the state level.  Well now a Michigan State Representative wants to eliminate the State Board of Education.

The Detroit Free Press is reporting about a resolution that has just been presented in the House that would eliminate the State Board of Education.  The state House and Senate would not have the final word, you the citizens would.  Due to the fact that the resolution would need to amend the Michigan Constitution by eliminating the board and having the governor appoint the state superintendent.  It would need to be passed by two-thirds of the House and Senate and then be put on the ballot, to be voted on by the citizens of Michigan in the next general election in the state.

The sponsor of the bill state Representative Tim Kelly, R-Saginaw Township, was quoted in the article stating:

Michigan has fallen precipitously" in academic rankings over the last decade, and the board has "watched fecklessly as we have fallen farther and farther behind.

He even went further and describe what has happened over the years with the State Board of Education as “educational malpractice”.

The questions are: what does the Board actually do, are they needed and are they successful in the mission they were tasked with?

So what are they supposed to do?

The State Board of Education is tasked with:

  • Appoint a state superintendent and that person is to oversee the Michigan Department of Education.
  • Set education policy in the state
  • Provide guidance to the Legislature on educational matters.

What this resolution would do is amend the Michigan Constitution by essentially eliminating the board and then give the duty of appointing a state superintendent to the governor.

Part of the concern of the legislators supporting this bill is the fact that Michigan has been moving down on the educational ladder, the proof comes from an exam, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, given to a representative sample of students in every state.  On the exam Michigan students results are as follows:

  • Michigan's fourth-graders rank 41st nationally in reading,
  • eighth-graders rank 37th in math

State Representative Adam Zemke, D-Ann Arbor, was quoted in the article stating:

I don't disagree with the evidence those facts are very clear. I question whether this recommendation is going to solve any of those problems.

I was very encouraged to read that Rep. Zemke did not take the usual partisan snipes that occur in our politics but examined the evidence and the resolution and had a very thoughtful question about it all.  This is the way I wish more of our politics were played out these days in both the state and federal government.

Our elected politicians as well as the citizens of a government can disagree on policy without calling each other names and outright disagreeing with everything the other “team” brings up as a solution.

There was a report released earlier this year by Governor Rick Snyder's 21st Century Education Commission.  The following are three options the commission recommended for our legislature to consider, they were:

  • Allow the governor to appoint members of the State Board.
  • Allow the governor to directly appoint the state superintendent and then abolish the State Board.
  • Change the State Board by removing partisan nominations and expanding membership to include gubernatorial appointments.

Take note that just like Representative Kelly’s resolution all three of these recommendations would require a change to the state constitution:

I thought the president of Grand Valley State University and chairman of the commission, Thomas Haas, stated the crux of the issue with the State Board of Education when he testified yesterday at a hearing and said the fundamental question that legislative leaders must answer is whether the State Board is

carrying out its fiduciary duties

and whether it is

relevant for the way forward

Do you believe we need a State Board of Education as their mission is stated and let us go one step further and ask do we need a Federal Department of Education?  If we need a Federal Department of education do we need a state or vice versa?

How about we let the school districts decide on the course of education in their districts?

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