Rep. Tim Kelly isn’t giving up on his mission to get rid of the State Board of Education. Good for him. The Saginaw Township Republican sought to disband the elected board in a resolution last year, and he introduced the resolution again in April. Kelly chairs the House Education Reform Committee, as well as the school aid appropriations committee.
That resolution is getting a hearing today, with some high-profile backing. Center for Michigan founder Phil Power will testify in support. And so will Thomas Haas, president of Grand Valley State University. Hass chaired Gov. Rick Snyder’s 21st Century Education Commission, which released its full report in March.
One of the commission’s recommendations was a radical shakeup of the State Board, including the option of ousting it altogether, or at least letting the governor have much more say in who sits on the board. That’s how schools are governed in the vast majority of other states.
Currently the state constitution calls for the statewide election of the eight board members. The board then hires a state superintendent. So any change to how education is governed would require a ballot proposal.
But it’s worth it. One of the biggest obstacles to reforming public schools in this state is the current governance structure, with often disparate agendas coming from the board, the governor and the Legislature. Kelly’s tired of these battles, and he’s seen how the setup has served as an impediment to positive change.
Kelly doesn’t have much time left in the Legislature, as President Donald Trump has plans to nominate him for a job in the U.S. Department of Education under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Kelly could be in Washington, D.C., by the end of the year.
To put the proposal before voters in the next general election, Kelly needs to get a two-thirds majority in both chambers. That’s a big ask, but if Michigan is serious about improving its schools, this should be priority No. 1.