FINCH: Change needed to board of education

Schools came into existence in Michigan in the early 1800s, and the Michigan Board of Education followed soon after; Michigan needed some type of system that would provide guidance, direction, and continuity for education in our schools.

According to the state’s website, John D. Pierce became the first state superintendent in 1835, and the State Board of Education official responsibilities came into being during the 1960s. Their current role is to “advise” the legislature, but as you can imagine in today’s political climate, there isn’t much advising going on — just provoking each other. The State of Michigan has always been a free-spirited state with independence and self-governing at the core of its DNA; hence, the power of local school boards to monitor your current school district in today’s model.

Several years ago, the governor and legislators hinted the state board didn’t actually represent the state and maybe we should look at equal representation, perhaps by the governor’s 10 Prosperity Regions? Of course there was kicking and screaming heard all of the way to the Upper Peninsula!

At a closer glance, they may have been correct. Of the six Democrats and two Republicans, six of the eight live within 40 miles of Detroit, while the two “outsiders” are from Saginaw and Grand Rapids; there is no representation north of M-46. The last time I looked, there are many school districts north of M-46!

Recently, the Speaker for the House of Representatives, Tim Kelly, supported a joint resolution, with over 30 other co-sponsors, to eliminate the State Board of Education and have the state superintendent be appointed by the governor. This resolution, if passed out of the legislative branches, would require the vote of the people. In the end, this concept would have some major hurdles to be completed, but with the current political actions of the State Board of Education and the current political climate, the probability just went up!

Perhaps a better solution lies in how the body is elected. The need for a State Board of Education can be debated, but the current system doesn’t work if you are interested in equal representation — we can’t have an Upper Peninsula representative every 100 years. By the end of the ballot at each election, no one checks the boxes! Contact your state representative and let them know we need a State Board of Education that represents the people from all corners of the state. Now there’s a solution that is reasonable and doesn’t discriminate against Michigan’s “northern” schools. I bet they would love to hear from you…

Dr. Finch can be reached at cfinch@moisd.org and followed on Twitter at CFinchMOISD